There are some books you buy that sit on your backlog for years. The Circle happens to be one of those books. It’s a national bestseller, but it never had a chance against the wave of nonfiction that I was reading. Of course, with the pandemic, reading nonfiction wasn’t cutting it, so I decided to give fiction a chance.
The Circle was created with a simple premise – end anonymity online. From that one goal, the company has expanded, dominating search, social media, and online payments. It’s the dream job for many Americans, and for Mae Holland, that dream becomes a reality thanks to her best friend, Annie. Like many early twenty-year-olds, Mae is optimistic about working at The Circle. Her insecurities and naiveté are used against her by The Wise Men, the leaders of the company. Little by little, Mae is indoctrinated into believing that only through knowledge and complete transparency can we become a better world.
The fun of reading The Circle is watching Mae’s descent into a sort of tech madness. With each new responsibility and new monitor that Mae acquires, you begin to see the dark side of transparency. As Mae becomes more involved digitally, her real-life relationships suffer. The books ask the reader a separate question, is all this social media and digital content good for us? But if you’ve watched Black Mirror or the current season of Westworld, this is a song that we’ve heard before. When this book was released, we didn’t know about the NSA scandal, Facebook’s privacy scandals, or even our current debates about our data. The Circle’s actions never seem scary or far-fetched, because the reality is more terrifying than fiction.