Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Circle by Dave Eggers: My take on the book as it heads to the screen


“ My God, Mae thought. It’s heaven.



The  campus was vast and rambling, wild with Pacific color, and yet the smallest detail had been carefully considered, shaped by the most eloquent hands. On land that had once been a shipper, then a drive-in movie theater, then a flea market, then blight, there were now soft green hills and a Calatrava fountain. And a picnic area, with tables arranged in concentric circles. And tennis courts, clay and grass. And a volleyball court, where tiny children from the company’s day-care center were running, squealing, weaving like water. Amid all this was a workplace, too, four hundred acres of brushed steel and glass on the headquarters of the most influential company in the world. The sky above was spotless and blue.

     Mae was making her way through all of this, walking from the parking lot to the main hall, trying to look as if she belonged. The walkway wound around lemon and orange trees and its quiet red cobblestones were replaced, occasionally, by tiles with imploring messages of inspiration. “Dream,” one said, the word laser-cut into the red stone “Participate,” said another. There were dozens: “Find Community.” “Innovate.” “Imagine.: She just missed stepping on the hand of a young man in a grey jumpsuit; he was installing a new stone that said “Breathe.” 
Page 1-2, The Circle, Dave Eggers

Electronic wall in one of Facebook's dining areas scrolls “Make It Happen” in letters several feet high. 

I don’t know if Facebook has inspirational messages tucked into the grounds of their Menlo Park campus but seeing they have this ginormous sign in one of their cafes, I wouldn’t be surprised. 

In Dave Egger’s 2013 novel, The Circle is a Facebook-Apple-Google inspired tech company, where the Facebook staple of likes become ‘zings’ and “Sharing is Caring” is the company’s mantra. In a dystopian world that’s not that far into the future (if at all!) social media is everything and the Circle encourages—no, insists upon—the sharing of EVERYTHING. Their actual mantra is “all that happens must be known.”  Which brings about the creation of SeeChange: little teeny cameras that can go anywhere, see anything, everything. Nanny cameras aren’t enough, with SeeChange, we can see the good anytime we want—the dolphins swimming in the bay—and the bad “Tyrants can no longer hide.”

Creepy. Yes, while it’s pretty great that tyrants can’t hide, it’s not so great that you and I can’t either. Which seems pretty obvious but the folks at the Circle have mostly all drunk the Kool-Aid, and zombie-like—the way we scroll through our twitter feed—keep inventing and allowing new ways to invade our privacy. 

The Circle has a zillion apps including TrueYou where one identity card & number is all you need to buy anything, vote, register for classes, get the results of your health tests and track your spending. There are apps designed to keep track of everything, from keys to your child’s whereabouts with ChildTrack, to your exact location any time of the day or night. Honestly, are we that far away from that now? There are all kinds of tracking systems out there already, how long before they market them to track your loved ones or your cheating spouse? The apps are probably out there already, I just haven’t gone shopping for them.

I know I’m not saying anything revolutionary here but when does it stop? Facebook is already intrusive. I hate how they send me messages telling me I’ve missed a lot since I was on Facebook last; that these are the people I ought to be wishing a happy birthday; that that this is where I was and what I was posting about 5 years ago. It makes me want to shut that puppy down. You too?


While Eggers takes it to somewhat heavy-handed and repetitive levels, I enjoyed the book. It will be relatively simple to cut much of the chaff and tell a frightening tale of modern society. Emma Watson is Mae, the young Circle newbie, Karan Gillen, the hotshot friend who gets her hired. Tom Hanks plays big man on campus, one of the company’s ‘wise men’, Eamon Bailey—are you ready to see Hanks in the adaptation of another Egger’s book, Hologram for the King?— with Patton Oswalt and John Boyega also as Circle employees. Ellar Coltrane from Boyhood fame, plays Mercer, Mae’s ex, an artist in the woods kind of guy who is not at all into Mae’s new gig.

Meet Kalden in The Circle. Played by John Boyega


Written and directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now), The Circle is in post-production now and is expected later this year.

I’d give it three and a half zings out of five. As far as technology goes, I’m having a love/hate relationship. How about you?


1 comment:

  1. I actually appreciate the birthday reminders because I'm crap at remembering. I also like the remembrances on Facebook, but I am annoyed that any time I'm on my computer, but not on Facebook, Facebook feels free to put little rectangles in the corner about people commenting or posting. I'll let you know when I want to hear from Facebook. Like your review though and jealous that everything Dave Eggers touches turns to gold.

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