Likely Stories: The Circle by Dave Eggers

Jul 26, 2018

  A powerful company draws an unsuspecting young woman into its web.

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

This frightening and eerie novel makes me shiver.  Dave Eggers’, The Circle, involves a vast, powerful corporation.  The novel has echoes of Jonathan Swift, Margaret Atwood, and George Orwell, with a touch of Dante.  Mae Holland’s college roommate offers her a job at “The Circle.”  Her first day seems like a dream come true.  A few days later, she finds herself overloaded with connections she is required to maintain for thousands of people connected to The Circle. 

At first, she breezes through her contacts with customers, but then the work load begins to grow.  One day, Gina stops by her office.  Eggers writes, “‘this would be a good time to set up all your socials.  You got time?’  ‘Sure,’ Mae said, though she had no time at all. // ‘I take it last week was too busy for you to set up your company social accounts?  And I don’t think you imported your old profile?’  Mae cursed herself.  ‘I’m sorry.  I’ve been pretty overwhelmed so far.’ / Gina frowned.  […] [She] tilted her head and cleared her throat theatrically.  […]  ‘We actually see your profile, and the activities on it, as integral to your participation here’” (95).  Mae is then shown a dizzying array of computer screens which create numerous obligations for interacting with thousands of other “Circlers”—as they are known—all around the world.  Gina opens a “Zinger” account for Mae, and she suddenly has over 10,000 co-workers with whom she must constantly monitor and establish interactions.

At another company meeting, one of the engineers demonstrates a miniature camera, which can be easily hidden.  He shows a few camera views—all ultra-high definition with audio as well.  Eggers writes, “Now there were twelve live images of white-topped mountains, ice-blue valleys, ridges topped with deep green conifers. // [This] ‘can give me access to any of the cameras [I want].  It’s just like friending someone, but now with access to all their live feeds.  Forget cable.  Forget five hundred channels.  If you have one thousand friends, and they have ten cameras each, you now have ten thousand options for live footage.  If you have five thousand friends, you have fifty thousand options.  And soon you’ll be able to connect to millions of cameras around the world.  […] ‘Imagine the implications!’’  Yes, imagine in deed!  The speaker goes on to say that the plan is for millions of these tiny cameras covering the entire world available to everyone’” (65).  If you thought Facebook destroys privacy, think again.  This is only the beginning.

One day, a mysterious man meets Mae.  He introduces himself as Kaldan and asks her to demonstrate what she does.  He has a badge admitting him to the company, so she obliges him.  Eggers writes, “Mae paused.  Everything and everyone else she’d experienced at The Circle hewed to a logical model, a rhythm, but Kaldan was the anomaly.  His rhythm was different, atonal and strange, but not unpleasant.  His face was so open, his eyes liquid, gentle, unassuming, and he spoke so softly that any possibility of threat seemed remote. // […] He was close to her, far too close if he was a normal person with everyday ideas of personal space, but it was abundantly clear he was not this kind of person” (94). 

Dave Eggers' suspense-filled novel, The Circle, will keep you on the edge all the way to the end.  5 stars

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!