Once a decade a book like The Every advances the frontier of literary excellence: a book that reflects our culture. Predicts our future. Worm-holes into our subconscious. Delivers artful and complex characters, metaphor, ideas, narrative. Provides percussive movements of levity, gravity, grace, suspense, hilarity. Encourages deep discussion. The book’s genius is also reinforced by Dave Eggers’s pitch-perfect satiric observations of modern (mostly liberal progressive) anxieties ... Plot-wise, The Every is simple ... Eggers leads us like the ghost of Christmas future ... The Every will feed the furnace of moral outrage on actual social media while satirizing that social media moral outrage on every page.
... a highly engaging, deeply unsettling and yet irritatingly imperfect book ... Eggers’ writing is surprisingly fast-paced and jaunty, making The Every easy to read. George Orwell’s terrifying, doom-laden 1984 it is not ... The strength of Eggers’ book lies in its wicked extrapolations of current technological fads to expose their latent flaws, and its skewering of current cultural and political controversies ... The strength of Eggers’ book lies in its wicked extrapolations of current technological fads to expose their latent flaws, and its skewering of current cultural and political controversies ... But Eggers’ characters are sketchily drawn and often fail to convince. Delaney is an insubstantial heroine whose motivations are never adequately explored. Agarwal is the book’s most intriguing and thought-provoking figure but only has a walk-on part. The Every’s denouement is sudden and shocking but strangely inconclusive. Its main purpose seems to be to leave open the narrative for the third volume in the series that will presumably follow.
Kudos to Dave Eggers. In this follow-up to the admirable, big-tech, dystopian thriller The Circle (which you needn’t have read to enjoy the current book), he again squares up to the new enemies of everything untamed and brilliant in humankind. If you meant to read Shoshana Zuboff’s important and demanding The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, but were too worn down by surveillance capitalism’s intrusions to get round to it, The Every tackles the same concerns from a shared perspective of humanist outrage, in the form of a gulpable fictive entertainment ... The spectre of an overtly darker and less comic novel floats through The Every, which is equal parts science-fiction nightmare of the next five seconds and broad, Silicon Valley satire ... unabashedly partisan and polemical. Eggers’s adversary is the war on subjectivity, nuance and wildness being waged by the clever yet mediocre men and women who wield more power than any government in history. About halfway through, the plot leans into the outlandish, then teeters towards the apocalyptic. And what a feeble anticlimax may await our cowed species – going out not with a bang, but with a sad-face emoji ... At 577 pages – the number diagnosed by an odious lit-streamlining app as the limit of readerly tolerance – The Every is not as tight as The Circle. As momentum builds, the plotting gets clunky, while the novel’s comic exuberance means it lacks the cathartic brutality of, say, Nineteen Eighty-Four. But Eggers is a wonderful storyteller with an alert and defiant vision. His down-home decency means he pulls short of articulating a thought that recurred for me throughout reading The Every: threatened with spiritual extinction through conformism, sanitisation, shame, inanity and surveillance, it might yet be our evil, our perversity, our psychopathology, our hate that prove the saving of us.
Chilling ... Eggers has long established his almost supernatural storytelling skills, and this new book is positively mesmerizing and wholly original. The Every, a companion book to The Circle, will likely scare the bejesus out of readers. The vivid future he depicts feels fantastical but just realistic enough to make you want to unplug your smart speaker and toss your fitness watch.
All of this should paint a terrifying picture, but it doesn’t (though I will concede that the possibility of eye-tracking technology that prevents you skimming War and Peace is genuinely scary). The problem is that none of the characters is given anything resembling a personality, let alone an arc – except for the purpose of tracking when they start to give in to the Every’s ethos. There seem to be no inner lives. Not only are the characters subordinated to the plot, but they are subsumed entirely by the novel’s polemic, so there’s nothing at stake. The Every’s other problem is that in the wake of big tech’s own self-parodying behaviour – Amazon’s anti-union scandals, the Elon Musk-Jeff Bezos space race, Facebook’s rebranding as Meta and launch of the Metaverse – satire begins to feel redundant ... Eggers is a gifted writer who couldn’t write a bad novel; even if this isn’t a great one, it contains several funny sequences threaded together with skewer-sharp sentences...And it does administer a sharp Juvenalian lampooning of big-tech venality, though this would be far more successful were it not also so lengthy ... often entertaining, but not effective. It issues an urgent injunction to save humanity without ever really evoking the kind of humanity that you’d remember after turning the final page – the kind that may be the only weapon we have in the fight against big-tech totalitarianism. Early on, when Delaney ponders possible ways to destroy the Every from the outside, her friend Wes deadpans: 'Maybe one of us writes a novel.' What a shame, then, that this novel feels like a damp squib.
... an ideas-oriented book: character development and plot are less important than building a world in order to satirize Big Tech. Does this approach add value to existing nonfiction tech criticism? ... Does Eggers do what my much drier form of tech criticism can’t do? Of course! Whereas Neil Postman once warned we’re Amusing Ourselves to Death, Eggers invites readers to laugh at absurd, dystopian scenes that showcase the decline of privacy and autonomy ... Eggers, it seems, needs to caricature the public, painting it as an easily manipulatable group, in order to tell his story ... Even when Eggers describes a few anti-tech holdouts and a small geographic area of resistance, he doesn’t break from this mold of painting the majority in absurdly broad strokes. And yet, to be turned off by Eggers’s unrealistic scenarios is to misunderstand how the layers of mockery and condescension enable him to do something brilliant when he describes the public accepting ever more disquieting product ... His exquisite portrayal of how this dynamic builds over time complements scholarly descriptions of toxic technologies becoming normalized ... Contemporary tech criticism tends to be depressing because Big Tech companies wield massive power that markets and regulation can’t seem to temper. However, fiction writers like Eggers have the freedom to imagine dystopian spin-offs and better worlds.
Nothing is left to the imagination in The Every, which moves relentlessly from one mocking sendup of tech culture to the next, taking trends like athleisure and public shaming to their fullest, worst extent ... These characters are repulsive, pitiful, obvious warnings of tech’s ability to unhinge. But there’s also a touch of cruelty in Eggers’s attempts to get us to despise them ... [One character's] theories seem to announce Eggers’s argument so transparently that the 577-page novel has the feel of a sandwich board with 'THE END IS NIGH' scrawled on it ... For a defense of nuance and unpredictability, The Every exhibits a startling lack of both ... Very little is left to interpretation ... I wished, often, to be allowed to come to my own conclusions, exercise my own subjectivity — that same endangered faculty the novel mourns ... For a long novel, the story is strikingly static, its message so unchanging that a plot never really develops. Instead, the events that occur in the book’s latter half ...are oddly disjointed and unexplained ... This book is meant to be extreme and off-putting, to scare us straight, sunk as we are in tech complacency ... A funny thing about novels though: Often, the more convinced they are, the more they fail to convince.
You can’t buy a hardcover edition of The Every from Amazon ... It’s the most interesting thing about The Every. In this unnecessary sequel to The Circle, Eggers goes around again, banging on about the corrosive effects of the Internet, social media and especially Silicon Valley’s hegemony. It’s no better for being entirely right. And at 577 pages, The Every suffers from the Web’s worst quality: unlimited space. It’s like a 27-hour TED Talk by some clever guy who thinks smoking is bad for your health ... [The] exciting premise of corporate sabotage immediately devolves into a thinly plotted series of mildly amusing set pieces ... This emphasis on apps and services only exposes the novel’s static plot and increasingly hectoring thesis. Weirdly, The Every reserves its most pointed satire for people who are too concerned about global warming ... The novel feels more smug than illuminating.
The Every is a powerful if messy polemic, full of ominous visions and deadpan humour, but as a novel it is let down by its flat pacing and hyperactive attention span. It feels like Eggers has tried to take on too much here. Perhaps a similar over-reach is what will ultimately cut Big Tech down to size.
Successful satire majors on ideas and insights, and the imagination of Eggers runs riot to dazzling effect in his first couple of hundred pages. Alas, he doesn’t quit while he is ahead, instead continuing for more than 300 more. Consequently, the novel begins to flag and sag. Plot twists become predictable, and characters never credibly develop. Nevertheless Eggers does us a service in underlining the sinister directions tech is taking.
More playful and satirical than Orwell, Eggers’s digital totalitarianism is a touchy-feely affair; where Orwell has the boot on the face, Eggers has online shopping and emojis. But it is no less of a serious warning and, just as 1984 was about tendencies in 1948, so Eggers has skewered trends already controlling our modern world ... With a few extra turns of the screw, Eggers conjures up a frighteningly plausible near-future that is both believable in small details and inspired in larger developments ... Orwell has the edge on Eggers when it comes to characterisation and plot, and The Every occasionally feels overlong, but it scores as a series of brilliant set pieces and a devastating overall critique. It should become a rallying point against what Eggers calls 'species altering' technology, threatening to abolish the free human. And, if nothing else, he has probably launched some new terms and concepts, not least the radical identity of being a 'trog'.
Eggers is at heart a moralist, and in The Every he is exploring a complicated ethical conundrum: What happens when our humanity, our desire to do the right thing, is turned against us by an entity such as the Every, which weaponizes shame—and, more important, shaming—as a mechanism of control? For Eggers, this is an existential matter as much as it is a social one ... The Every doesn’t offer much of a way out, but then, this is not the novel’s job ... 'When everything is seen,' a character assures Delaney, 'nothing bad can happen.' Isn’t it pretty to think so? But in The Every, Eggers effectively takes the opposing point of view, portraying big tech, and our complicity with it, as a soul-destroying threat.
Part of the joy and genius of Eggers’ novel is its hybrid genre nature ... a thriller ... a comedy ... Yet it is a serious book, and one that is perfectly balanced ... In many ways, Eggers’ novel is prophetic. But in many ways it is, to use an old critical theory phrase, an example of the 'always already'. You read it and think: yes, this is set in the future but it is actually going on here and now. It is an urgent and necessary book. It’s also fun. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
An astutely creative satirist, Eggers presents a galvanizing vision of the potentially horrifying extremes weaponized social media and e-commerce could be capable of by deftly amplifying the already malignant impact tech giants are having on privacy and freedom ... He also daringly explodes cherished assumptions and asks if an Every-like megacorporation might be the only entity capable of combating climate change. A riveting, astute, darkly hilarious, and deeply unnerving speculative saga.
Uneven ... Sparkles with provocative ideas but has trouble keeping itself together ... Eggers spends much of his time in 'setup' mode, with a self-referential style that lands some nice jabs ... More often, though, the work feels subsumed by anxiety over readers’ attention spans ... The climax involving Delaney’s plot is, like Eggers’s vision of the near future, plausible if predictable. This’ll be a bit too wooly for many readers’ tastes, but there’s plenty of sharp apocalyptic satire.
... the jokes are mostly relegated to product jargon (AuthentiFriend, OwnSelf, PrefCom, KisKis) or Orwellian lines ('The World Wants to Be Watched'), though a witty set piece attacks algorithmic attempts to defang classic novels. Otherwise, much as in The Circle, Eggers is lecturing behind the thinnest scrim of a plot: The fates of Delaney, the Every, and humanity are never in doubt. The novel’s rollout reflects Eggers' anti-monopolist ethos: It was made available exclusively to independent bookstores a month before wide release. But it’s a baggy, plodding jeremiad however you acquire it ... Further proof that noble values don’t guarantee good fiction.