The Circle becomes interesting when Eggers begins to invoke the quandary presented by Edward Snowden and his release of classified information regarding the government’s surveillance of our phone conversations and e-mails. Snowden has raised awareness of the extent to which our government values privacy less than security. Ironically, the Circle would agree … The Circle is meant to hold up a mirror to a moment in our cultural history in which we spend more time online than we do with each other … The novel is not so much about what the tech world is like—it’s about what we are like, what we do with technology, and where we very well might be headed.
The Circle is neither a tract nor an analysis but a novel, and novels always tell the stories of individuals. In genre this novel partakes of the Menippean satire—distinct from social satire in viewing moral defects less as flaws of character than as intellectual perversions … Eggers treats his material with admirable inventiveness and gusto. The plot capers along, the trap doors open underfoot, the language ripples and morphs. Why has he not been headhunted by some corporation specializing in new brand names? Better than reality, some of these, and all too plausible. But don’t look to The Circle for Chekhovian nuance or thoroughly rounded characters with many-layered inwardness: it isn’t ‘literary fiction’ of that kind.
The Circle adds little of substance to the [surveillance] debate. Eggers reframes the discussion as a fable, a tale meant to be instructive … A sense of horror finally arrives near the end of the book, coming not through Mae’s eyes but through the power of Eggers’s writing, which we have been waiting for all along … Perhaps this is what Eggers wants to say: that evil in the future will look more like the trivial Mae than it will the hovering dark eye of Big Brother. If so, he should have worked much harder to express this profound thought. The characters need substance; Mae must be more than a cartoon.
Using his fluent prose and instinctive storytelling gifts, Mr. Eggers does a nimble, and sometimes very funny, job of sending up technophiles’ naïveté, self-interest and misguided idealism … Though The Circle is never less than entertaining, it can sometimes lumber into the tendentious, with minor characters — like Mae’s former boyfriend Mercer — spouting diatribes that laboriously spell out the dangers of living online or the impossibility of quantifying emotions … It never really gives the reader the sense of being thoroughly immersed in a coherent, fully imagined universe with rules and an inevitability of its own.
Even without the searing wit of 1984, the book is capable of landing on point—when it’s at its most irksome. Where 1984 has the vigilant Police Patrol and Thought Police, The Circle has SeeChange and Clarification. Surveillance isn’t a bad word; it’s a gift, even a human right … The Circle is as much Google as it is Facebook (though it officially stands in for neither, as the Circle is supposed to have succeeded them). Google’s motto, ‘Don’t be evil,’ is upended in Eggers’s telling: these companies may not have started out as the clubhouses of moustache-twirling villains, but, he writes, in a return to Orwell, ‘We’re closing the circle around everyone—it’s a totalitarian nightmare.’
This relentless broadside against the corrosive effects of the connected life is as subtle as a sponsored tweet. Make no mistake: Eggers has seen the Facebook effect, and he does not ‘like’ it. His parable of technological madness reads like a BuzzFeed list of ‘Top 10 Problems With the Web.’ … Given how self-evident these satiric points are, though, it’s a shame Eggers can’t trust his readers more. We hardly need Mae’s ex-boyfriend to look directly into the novel’s webcam and hector us like some Luddite preacher … Part of respecting privacy might be leaving readers space to draw their own interpretations.
Mr. Eggers's dystopia, filled with unnerving details drawn from today's Silicon Valley colossi, builds on charged, timely fears about a world that is replacing personhood with data and reality with the pale simulacra of cyberspace … It's frustratingly evident that The Circle contains nothing in the way of insight or sophistication … A writer with no respect for the intelligence of his characters usually has little for that of his readers, and there's a creepy sense that Mr. Eggers has intentionally dumbed down his storytelling. The novel's lessons seem both obvious and sanctimonious.
Dave Eggers’s The Circle is so carelessly written, so predictably plotted, and so thinly conceived that it threatens to make a mockery of anyone who would attempt seriously to review it … His newest novel distinguishes itself for its clumsy prose, its one-dimensional characterization, and the utter absurdity of many of the situations it asks its reader to imagine … Whereas Eggers’s warning seems to be that we can go too far or too fast in the service of even the best of intentions, he has written a book that in fact says more about what the ‘best’ progressive intentions inevitably leave out.
Everyone is so credulous and naive about The Circle, including Holland herself. I've never encountered anyone who is so dumb and unthinking about social media as roughly all the characters in this book. Middle schoolers tend to have a more nuanced understanding of ‘openness’ and ‘transparency’ on the Internet than Eggers' characters … His fundamental conceit is that people don't know or understand the tradeoffs they're making with social media. But the existence and popularity of all these other networks argues otherwise … Eggers took on these complex, difficult technologies, which we spend a lot of time thinking about, but refused to reckon with their real seductiveness.
In this taut, claustrophobic corporate thriller, Eggers comes down hard on the culture of digital over-sharing, creating a very-near-future dystopia in which all that is not forbidden is required … Eggers has a keen eye for context, and the great strength of The Circle lies in its observations about the way instant, asynchronous communication has damaged our personal relationships … [Mae] is an appealing focal point, and her moments of unplugged solitude - the poetry of which goes artfully unrecognized - provide the most profound, well-written interludes in the book.
This seems like a promising narrative tactic, empowering the reader, but instead it squelches our conversation with the book. Holland nods or says yes; she doesn't have qualms or questions. The reader must slog alone through long didactic passages about the benefits of implanting tracking devices in children and covering the globe with surveillance cameras. Eggers doesn't channel these creepy ideas enthusiastically enough to make them convincing, and they're not heightened enough to work as satire … At least The Circle is funny in its skewering of Internet culture...the ideas behind The Circle are compelling and deeply contemporary.
Eggers has said he did no research for the novel. He didn't tour tech campuses. He has said he didn't read books about tech firms because he wanted to write a novel that's not so much about technology, but its implications. That's both the novel's strength and weakness. It's driven by a message, more than its characters … By literary standards, The Circle is not one of his best novels, but for the questions it raises, it could be his most important.
As our starry-eyed heroine makes her way around The Circle, the reader begins to sense Eggers’s implicit denunciation of the company culture: boundary-less communication can cause paranoia and hypersensitivity among those who attempt it, and can give the people who facilitate it utter control. The social message of the novel is clear, but Eggers expertly weaves it into an elegantly told, compulsively readable parable for the 21st century … What may be the most haunting discovery about The Circle, however, is readers’ recognition that they share the same technology-driven mentality that brings the novel’s characters to the brink of dysfunction.