The Circle

Originally posted January 2014

I readily admit I am a social media addict. Not so much that I need to check my phone if I wake up at 2 a.m., but enough that I can usually be caught scanning my Facebook page in line at the grocery store. When I read, it’s my break from a computer screen. I’ve even resisted the Kindle and iPad for this long for that reason. I love being connected, just not 24/7.

So when I pick up a book and find the main plot revolves around the global descent into constant online connectivity, it’s a little uncomfortable. I’m breaking from my social media addiction to read about everyone else’s. Hmm.

The Circle is for certain, an interesting read. The story follows a fictional social media/online giant, The Circle, and its newbie employee, Mae Holland. As Mae becomes immersed in the culture of The Circle (apartments for employees who never leave the coolest campus ever! Raucous parties! Seminars! Free health care! For your parents too!) readers are asked to consider if the company’s long-range goals are for the better global good, or just plain sinister. Mae’s better angels, her parents and ex-boyfriend Mercer, sit on one shoulder, whispering occasionally to be careful, while old friend Annie, who got her the job and is one of the company’s Gang of 40, along with her new supervisors, pull her in even further. And when several of those angels—Annie, and the mysterious Kalden—begin to grow concerned with The Circle’s cult-like ethics, will Mae listen to them and the better angels, or will she be too far gone to get her to recognize the danger of putting everything out there, online?

If I was going to rate the book Goodreads style, I’d give it a 3 out of 5. The book is completely engrossing—I had to know what was going to happen next. And given our real world, with Google and Amazon pretty much taking everything over except my house cleaning responsibilities (Maybe I can get a delivery drone to scoop the cat box), it’s very easy to make connections with the text. That said, I thought the character development was incomplete. Given the conclusion, I just don’t understand why Mae makes the decisions she does—insecure, maybe, but to the degree that is revealed? I don’t buy it. Same goes with just about everyone else. I just didn’t feel like decisions made by the characters were justified.

All that said, any book that has me thinking that hard about it is worthy of book club conversation, and this is great fodder. Everyone is going to have a different opinion of Mae and her employer. I’d love to know what you think. Now? I feel like I need a tech-free vacation to vaccinate against the possibility I’m sharing just a little too much. Not going to happen, but I like the idea.

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