Monday, 24 February 2014

185/111 - The Circle by Dave Eggers

I received this book as a present for either my Christmas or birthday this year, I can't remember anymore. I requested it because I have never actually read any Dave Eggers before, despite him being a rather influential literary figure (or so I'm told) but also because I was really intrigued by the premise of the book. The reason for my intrigue was that this is about a young woman who starts working for a powerful organisation called 'The Circle', which is the world's most powerful company, dabbling in the internet, social media, surveillance, social change, all sorts. And it therefore reminded me a little of the work that I do, in that it's a global and very desirable brand, but that's pretty much where the similarities end.

Mae is kind of down-and-out and only gets the job at The Circle when referred by her old college roommate. She starts out in customer experience, at the very lowest rung of the ladder, and starts out by treating the job like a 9-5. When she receives a reprimand for unknowingly snubbing a co-worker, she starts to realise that the demands of The Circle go far beyond her initial expectations. They expect total participation and total transparency, ranking the Circlers' in a public setting based on many different criteria. As Mae becomes more and more entangled in The Circle, she finds more and more areas of her life under scrutiny. Eventually things reach a head when, caught stealing, she volunteers to open up her life to total transparency by wearing a camera at all times. Mae becomes more shallow.

On the other side, her former boyfriend and her parents become alarmed quickly by the changes in Mae brought on by her joining this organisation that starts to resemble a cult / totalitarian state. Eventually, Mae becomes a monster, a truly detestable character.

I really enjoyed this. I was reading it during the week that I was working in Basingstoke, so I rather enjoyed having a short commute each morning on which to read this, as normally I'm stuck in traffic so no reading takes place (much to the relief of other drivers, I think). This is quite a chunky book, or maybe it just felt that way because it was a hardback and incredibly dense, but at no point did I feel like I was having to trudge my way through. It was a relatively easy read for such a large book. There is so much to it - it's both funny and frightening, and as much as it's unlikely to happen it also doesn't seem totally outside the realms of possibility. Very interesting indeed.

My own relationship with technology is pretty nonchalant, even though I use it every day and I have mobile devices coming out of my ears. I don't really use social networking all that much, mainly because I feel like it's kind of silly to do so. I have all the accounts (well, Facebook and Twitter - what else is there?) but I don't participate much in it all. I'm pretty sure that most people don't really care much what I have to say about a sandwich that I ate or how my commute to work was, so I tend to keep that kind of thing to myself. The idea of the opposite, of total transparency, is pretty unbearable - I would hate to have my every move watched and judged. There's no way that my everyday life is interesting enough for that kind of nonsense.

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