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.