A failed dystopian novel– book review of The Circle

Book Introduction

In The Circle, Eggers creates an Internet company that seeks to take over the world by controlling users’ data and personal information. Following the story of Mae Holland, a female employee of the company, the book explores the devastating effects of a totalitarian government that controls citizens’ privacy and private information.

book recommendation

After having to endure the terrible reading experience, I would not recommend the book: it is boring, written poorly, and lack important explanations and details, not to mention obvious loopholes in plots.

Rating: 3/5

A failed dystopian novel

–book review of The Circle

Anticipation of the future, discussion about the relationship between technology (Internet), humanity, and privacy, community and transparency, it is obvious that Dave Eggers classified his 2013 novel The Circle as a dystopian novel, a novel that deals with the potential problematic future. Although Eggers had the ambition of creating a book that warns the audience of the harm of the Internet—the ability to destruct humanity and basic privacy—he fails to explain and demonstrate the negative sides of the dystopian world; in fact, he has failed to even build a dystopian world, given that the book only focused on the Internet company and a female protagonist whose characters are self-contradictory and confusing. In other words, The Circle, if considered as a technology dystopian novel, is incomplete and wrecked.

In the digital age, people’s use of technology, especially social media, does raise many questions about humans’ privacy and even democracy. While in human literature, there are already many dystopias targeting certain political regimes and future human apocalypses, technology dystopias are specifically lacking. In fact, The Circle takes advantage of what was lacking and presents a creative idea of a dystopia where human abuses technology to ensure the so-called transparency that deprived them of their basic human rights of privacy. In the modern world, the discussions and protection of human privacy prevail in many aspects—discussions surrounding device encryption are great examples. In such aspect, the idea of The Circle is applicable to the current trend. The product ideas in the book, including TruYou, SeeChange, InnerCircle, and OuterCircle, are build upon the traces of the current digital technology and media, carrying the identity and privacy concern to a brand-new level.

Despite the grand ambition and idea, however, the author has failed to create a successful and dreadful dystopia. He spends so many pages (so many that has made the reading process very boring, confusing, and less enjoyable) describing irrelevant details and conversations that the lines about the dread and harm are almost completely absent. Although like most dystopian novels, the company The Circle uses typical dystopian propagandas (like “secrets are lies”, “sharing is caring”, and “privacy if theft”), the author has neglected the world outside the company—a successful dystopia ought to explain to the readers the change in society that is fundamentally different from our society now—Eggers did none of that. Unlike the classic 1984, Eggers did not explain how the so-called Totalitarian regime Demoxie is (or will be as in the book) formed.

More importantly, the author’s intents and ambitions are a little too obvious. In most dystopian novels, the world “dystopia” is never mentioned; in The Circle, however, I am assuming that the author wanted to emphasize the dystopian nature of the book so much that he has made countless implications here and there in the lines to make sure the audience understand the dreads. However, this is not how dystopian novels work. In no way does The Circle resemble successful dystopian novels where complex characters are delineated, twisting plots and suspense are designed, and where the new society, although seems completely normal in the book, is in fact out of place and challenges the valued human freedom.

The Circle is a beautiful yet empty shell: even though the outside (the basic idea, theme, and plan) of the book seems attractive and interesting, the internal (actual book) surprises readers by giving them countless disappointments. When I read the book introduction, I was expecting a fascinating tale of technology shattering humanity, but what braced me when I started reading was pointless conversations and unpolished language and narration. With a fancy idea, the book is a huge let-down.

The book was a Christmas present from a friend: I asked for science fiction, and when my friend probed more and learned that I especially like books featuring dystopias, The Circle appeared in the wrap. I opened the book and knew that my friend did some research. However, the research was not good enough. As a huge fan of dystopian novels, I am now skeptical of whether The Circle could be put in the category. With similar ideas, the book could be written in a better way where fastidious readers like me could come to appreciate its values and the effort the author put in the writing process.

Information: The Circle by Dave Eggers

Date: 1/6/2020

Published by Sunny

I am a high school rising sophomore and I love to read and write.

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