Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Circle

Dave Eggers
The Circle

Knopf/McSweeneys, 2013

Mae Holland, a naive 24-year-old girl, with the help from her friend and fellow student Annie, is hired by The Circle, conquering the whole world company, some kind of corporation that combines Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, engaged in the implementation of social networks in everyday life. Mae grew up in a small unnamed town, and after graduation from thr university got a job at the factory to pay her student loans. But after two years Mae escapes from the factory and is happy to accept the job offer to work on the campus of The Circle.

The company was founded by the three Wise Men, as they call themselves, Stenton, Bailey and Gospodinov, the latter rarely appears in public. In The Circle transparency, openness and communication are valued. Working on The Circle a person must not only perform their duties, but also to actively socialize, preferably on the Web. All information from Mae’s gadgets is transfered into her account in The Circle, later to be synchronized - all the new gadgets are linked to her Circle account.

The Circle’s campus is a vast field, with numerous buildings, including dormitories for workers, hospitals, entertainment venues, shopping centres - in fact employees even don’t have to leave the campus, they can live and work here.

Mae’s girlfriend Annie works at the top of the company, developing new projects, and Mae is to work in Customer Experience. May should help clients with the emerging issues, and for this they rate her help from one to one hundred in special survey.

Eggers’ new novel had been called techno-thriller which is not true, of course. It's more tehnosatire, techno - because it’s technically accomplished, and because of new technologies. And the first quarter of the text reads as it is a serious thing , but after one scene where the main character gets punished by the boss and diligently corrects her own mistakes in the social network with the zeal of a madman - that's when you start to laugh, and at the same time realize that Eggers still show us his satirical talent.

In The Circle the author made his protagonist not a fighter with the system, and not an intellectual, on the contrary - too sweet girl, who sees paradise anywhere after that factory. The desire to please, hold on, do not let her friend down, help parents with money – Mae’s motives are not bad, but they blurred her vision of the world. With every new page it’s more difficult for us to empathize with Mae, but the situation becomes clearer with The Circle.

Eggers who does not use social media with striking accuracy caught in this novel our possession of pseudosocialization when activity in the social media substitutes activity in reality. The scenes of the novel, when Mae is brainwashed with a corporate culture are the strongest and most stunning.

«Denise smiled. “Fantastic. Now let’s talk about the rest of the weekend. On Friday, you find out that your dad’s okay. But the rest of the weekend, you basically go blank. It’s like you disappeared!” Her eyes grew wide. “This is when someone like you, with a low Participation Rank, might be able to improve that, if she wanted to. But yours actually dropped—two thousand points. Not to get all number-geeky, but you were on 8,625 on Friday and by late Sunday you were at 10,288.”

“I didn’t know it was that bad,” Mae said, hating herself, this self who couldn’t seem to get out of her own way. “I guess I was just recovering from the stress of my dad’s episode.”

“Can you talk about what you did on Saturday?”

“It’s embarrassing,” Mae said. “Nothing.”

“Nothing meaning what?”

“Well, most of the day I stayed at my parents’ house and just watched TV.”

Josiah brightened. “Anything good?”

“Just some women’s basketball.”

“There’s nothing wrong with women’s basketball!” Josiah gushed. “I love women’s basketball. Have you followed my WNBA zings?”

“No, do you have a Zing feed about the WNBA?”

Josiah nodded, looking hurt, even bewildered.»

The figures of the three founders of The Circle can not be taken into account without laughing - their monologues, their concepts , their management companies. The more painful to see that Mae does not understand all that. Even when faced with obvious absurd situations, Mae can not see the absurdity of some aspect of The Circle and is trying to find a way within the corporate culture.

The corporate part of the novel is succesful. But the general concept of warning is not quite complete. Eggers is trying to convince us about the global spread of The Circle, but the development of global social networks outside the United States are not well developed. It’s hardly possible to believe that people in third world countries or American vagrants would rush to buy electronic gadgets, cameras, and bracelets. Eggers also suffers crudity of some of his inventions: he tells about another novelty of The Circle, but then throws it away, forgetting to describe how it will work in the world and what changes it will bring.

Another drawback of the book is that the point of view of the author, expressed through novel’s antagonists Mercer and Kalden, is too roughly woven into the text. Mae’s position is presented to us in the form of a narrative, whereas the position of the author in the form of not too convincing lectures and sermons. If the author's purpose - to show, not to tell, then Eggers tells in antagonists’ monologues.

The Circle has turned out an uneven novel, but funny and entertaining. The author warns us about the danger of the influence of social media, but where will readers rush to share the warnings if not on Facebook and Twitter ? The Circle is completed?

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