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cover of The Circle by Dave Eggers

The Circle by Dave Eggers (knopfdoubleday.com) is a disturbing, near future novel about a young woman's unquestioning devotion to the ambitious database-and-social-media-and-payment-handling Internet corporation which employs her.

It was recommended to me by the clerk at Needles & Pens (needles-pens.com) on Valencia as a real page turner, and I'm glad she encouraged me to hold onto it once she saw it was tempting me.

The most concise summary I have given anyone of this book is: "1984 reworked for the Facebook era." It is an engaging, plainly worded warning about the perils of corporate (rather than government) intrusion into both private lives and the infrastructure of civil society.

There are hints within the book at a split between generations over perceptions of basic civil liberties and corporate monopolies. As someone near Egger's age, I have a perception that Millennials and other youngsters who grew up in a post-privacy social context often fail to see the risks of trading privacy for convenience, and fail to view Internet corporations as inherently self-serving entities which exist primarily to create profit for shareholders, just as non-Internet corporations are. Tech savvy youth should be natural allies of tech-centric civil liberties organizations, yet may not perceive the need to even have a position on liberties, just as each new generation benefits from the advocacy of prior generations -- and so misses experiencing the hardships which made the advocacy so necessary in the first place.

I hope that paragraph doesn't make me sound any more ancient than I actually am. :)

The novel has an eerily true-to-life quality in its description of the corporation's campus and the lifestyle ambitions of its workers. (For those of you who felt, as I did at the time, that Microserfs by Douglas Coupland (coupland.com) was a documentary about people you know will understand the sentiment.) In a McSweeney's interview, Eggers explained that he didn't want to inadvertently make the novel's office settings TOO specifically realistic by spending time at our local Internet giants, and yet... he nailed it with respect to our expectations about what the near future holds for the companies our friends and neighbors work at.

This book is written in language accessible for all ages, and offers timely thoughts on the risks of our current technological and political decisions.

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images and text Copyright © 2015 A. E. Graves, book cover images are the copyright of their respective owners

(posted November 14, 2015 refreshed February 2019)

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