London, January 2019
A semi-dystopic comment on the power of internet companies and their threat to independence and autonomy.
When she joins the Circle, Mae makes a quick and impressive impact on the company. Despite warnings from a mysterious silver-haired man who roams the Circle’s grounds, Mae believes the Circle is the future and will do everything she can to help secure it.
In my opinion this was 491 pages of fluff that could have been condensed to 180 pages. We’re dragged through Circle social events and the minutiae of Mae’s daily role in the company; from digressions into her parents’ home which Mae’s ex-boyfriehd still frequents to lecture her about the evils of the Circle to enthusiastically attended Circle presentations where one of the Big Three company founders is received like a rock star as they unveil inroads into new tech frontiers.
It’s difficult to surmise a plot as it felt like things happened but that nothing really happened.
The novel lacked any real conflict. The attempt at conflict arose early on through the appearance of the silver-haired Kalden at a Circle social event. Through his hidden bottle of German quint, Kalden wins Mae over but she’s unable to identify him as an employee and her far more Circle-expert friend Annie can’t tell Mae who he is.
Kaiden appears throughout, serving no real purpose other than to be the is he a ghost, is he a stalker, is he a time-traveller sub-character as he disappears quickly after exploring Mae’s sexual intrigue which leads to some icky writing, heavily breathed messages and general grossness.
The reveal of Kalden in the bigger picture is idiotically obvious yet at the same time completely unbelievable within the author’s depiction of what the Circle is and how it works. By that point I was so bored, it didn’t matter who he was anyway.
As protagonists in dystopia driven literature go, Mae is the most gaping mouthed moronic one yet. The lack of conflict is partly due to the writer’s refusal to have Mae question anything that happen around her, which as the novel continues makes her more difficult to see as real any way.
The Circle’s SeeChange technology is a live streaming mobile camera that is converted into wearable technology that government figures start to wear to make public work truly transparent.
When Mae is arrested for stealing a boat (it’s not as exciting as it sounds), she agrees to make her life transparent through SeeChange so that whoever she speaks to us instantly seen and heard by thousands – millions – billions! of viewers. You can imagine how much fun this is for the interlocutor and as a result, she not only alienates her parents, but manages to catch them in a sexual frisson that she beams to her hoards of viewers. Not Mae’s problem, or even a problem on her scale.
Her friend Annie, who secures her the role, gets jealous of Mae’s quick success at the Circle. To even the balance, Annie volunteers to take part in the Circle’s DNA project that reveals the entire backlog and story of Annie’s ancestry. When Annie finds out her ancestors were slave owners, she nigh on has a breakdown but Mae doesn’t really care that much.
The biggest casualty is her ex-boyfriend Mercer, who seems to have been written as the voice of resistance, though within the novels he reads more like a muttering angry old man who swears things were better in his day. At about two-thirds in, Mae takes part in the first use of some new technology that involves harassing Mercer while he drives his car until he dies from it.
Much like the psychotic corporation she works for, Mae seems incapable of rationalism, empathy or plain common sense and instead of the protagonist working against the seeming villain of the piece, she works in tandem with it.
It’s a novel with no message and I regret the time wasted on it.