Review: The Circle by Dave Eggers Circle by Dave Eggers (Knopf, 2013, 504 pages)

Actually, I wanted to call this review "The Circle, or REALLY? REALLY??!!). But before I get to that, I wanted to acknowledge the many (often negative) reviews that have been written about this novel. Most of these reviews have bemoaned the fact that Eggers (as he openly acknowledged) didn't do any research related to technology or tech companies for the book. In fact, he doesn't seem to understand quite how the internet works.

I, however, wish to focus on a different aspect of Eggers's novel. It is with the narrative itself that I have problems. Many, MANY problems. And these problems I shall lay out in a series of questions.

So without further ado... (oh and beware: SPOILERRRRS below!!!)

Why, Dave, WHY is Mae so soulless and flat? Why are all of the characters (except maybe Annie, near the very end) flat as paper-thin pancakes and equally uninteresting?

Why are the anti-Circlers kept mostly off-stage (Mae's parents, Mercer, Ty/Kalden) and only brought into the story in short, weird bursts? Was this your way of making the point that anyone resisting transparency will necessarily be opaque? Or was this your way of presenting "both sides" of the argument?
Why didn't you take some advice from Orwell and actually make your main character aware of the absurdities and terrors inherent in "complete transparency," as depicted in the book? I mean, even a little bit? Mae's "yes sir yes ma'am yes yes yes" attitude is distressingly boring and unconvincing. NOBODY in her position with a quarter of a quarter of a brain would be that clueless. Am I right?

What was the point of Mae's sexual escapades with Ty/Kalden and Francis? Was it to point out that total immersion in technology leads to artificial and unsatisfying physical unions? Or am I putting intentions into your book?

Why did you include the shark vs. squid scene at the very end of the novel? Was it your way of quoting Theodore Dreiser's lobster vs. squid scene at the beginning of The Financier, which was meant to foreground issues of naturalism and determinism? Somehow, I think not. I think, in fact, that you just happened to remember reading that scene way back in college and thought "hey, that seems remotely relevant. I'll just stick it iiiiiinnn.....HERE!" And BAM, instant literary quotation. And yet it didn't score you any points. Dreiser is NOT IMPRESSED.
Why didn't you consider the fact that the best-told stories are those that do not include preachy passages? Cause Mercer and Ty/Kalden are preachy, without being convincing. I mean, Mercer's letters, really? What a cop-out. And what a disappointment. He could have been so much more interesting.

Why are Mae's parents and their growing distrust of the Circle sidelined just when this storyline was getting good? I mean, covering up the cameras? Telling Mae (and her audience of a gazillion) that they didn't want any more messages from well-wishers? BLASPHEMY! HERESY! OTHER BAD STUFF! You could have done so much more with this. And then when the parents disappear- where did they go? I mean, seriously, Dave.
Why couldn't we have had more scenes like the one in which Mercer is chased by the drones and then drives his car off the bridge? Not that I wanted any bloodshed or anything like that, but some more scenes in which the grasping, carping horde goes after anyone who wants nothing to do with them would have been awesome. Mob rule in action. I mean, wasn't that your point all along? Or were you not quite sure of your point?
Why do you have Mae, who just started at the company, suddenly come up with these amazing ideas that would revolutionize humanity's relationship to technology blah blah blah? Didn't you realize that this was quite unbelievable? I mean, Mae's presented as the most clueless chicky out there, and then suddenly she's this brilliant whiz girl? Puh-leez.

I could go on, Dave, but I choose not to. I'm tired and I've got all this Facebooking and Twittering and Googling and Amazoning to do before I can go to bed. So please excuse me. And try to pay attention to your narrative next time so it will be a little more believable and less heavy-handed. Thanks.


  1. Oh, no! I didn't read your whole review because I just picked this up and didn't want to be spoiled...but now that I'm back in at the bottom, maybe I should just read this and save myself a few hundred pages? Either way, I'm glad to have found your blog and will be following along!

  2. How disappointing! I was positively looking forward to reading this!