Dear Fellow Reader,
I hit a string of books that I didn’t like. Don’t you hate when that happens? Do you stop reading and move on or do you force yourself to keep going? I used to keep going but now there are so many books that I want to read that I stop if I don’t like the book. I realize that there is always the possibility that it will drastically improve on the next page. I get that but sometimes it isn’t worth the slog. Plus, I think that our attitude plays such a big part in how we react to some books. So maybe I just wasn’t in the right place for the books I cast off.
I did finally hit a streak of books that I liked or found compelling. Thank goodness. I needed to get back to reading.
The Circle is one of those books that I found compelling. It is my book group’s book for June. I understand that some of the members had seen the movie and then didn’t want to read the book. I am not much of a movie watcher, so I didn’t have that problem. I found the book absorbing. I thought that the plot moved along well and it was not predictable.
Mae graduated from college and was working at her local utility company. She hated it. Her college roommate Annie had gone on to law school and then gotten a job at Circle, an internet company. Circle seems to me to be a combination of Facebook, Google, and Amazon. The Circle has all the information on everyone. The company claims that it wants to make the world a better place. The prevailing thought is that transparency is good and that not sharing (constantly) is bad. Through Annie (who is very popular at the Circle), Mae gets a job. Mae is, at first overwhelmed by all the perks that come with the job and how people are so in awe of her friendship with Annie.
The perks of the job are fantastic. Meals, snacks, a gym, dormitories for those who work late, medical care so inclusive (and on-site) that you are given a band to wear that tracks your vitals all the time. There are concerts, artwork, intermural sports, and social clubs for everything. Mae finds that she is expected to join in all activities and that her attendance and participation is tracked.
At first, she finds it hard to keep up with all the information that floods her daily. She spends the first week getting used to her work but finds that she also had been expected to go to see the doctor and become meshed in the work network of social activities. When she is called into her boss’s office to see why she isn’t participating, she works on becoming more active. When she takes time to go home to visit her parents and comes back upset because of the progression of her father’s MS, she is told that the company will provide health care for her father. This is an incredible help as her mother had been spending so much time fighting the insurance company to cover her father’s care. She is so happy that she can help her parents. They are so proud of her.
Mae does have some moments where she is uncomfortable. When her work boyfriend tapes (without her permission) some private moments, she wants him to delete the tape. Deleting things is not allowed at Circle. Everything should be open and honest. Another time, her profile is used in a demonstration for LuvLuv a new dating app being developed by the company. She was not told that her information was going to be used and she wasn’t happy about it.
Mae becomes a rapidly rising star in the company and is one of the first to go to “full transparency” which means that she wears a camera and headset and broadcasts everything in her life all the time.
As Mae is progressing in the company, those around her don’t agree with the trajectory that Circle is on and they either go into hiding or try to stop the progress. Will Mae “drink the Kool-Aid” or will she work to stop the tentacles of the Circle from spreading?
I think that it was a fast read for the length. (497 pages in paperback) For most of the book you can see Mae’s doubts about some of the issues but she is always glad for her position. I found the premise to be chilling. I wanted to yell at Mae that she was falling into a trap. That changing her father’s insurance was a trap. That wearing a medical device that allows your company to follow every bit of your life is a trap. And on and on.
The book is a cautionary tale on how much power we give to the internet and how it can be used against us. I found it to be interesting and chilling. I did not expect the ending of the book. I was sure something else was going to happen.
Thanks for reading!