The Circle by Dave Eggers

65%

51 Critic Reviews

Though Eggers strives for a portentous, Orwellian tone, this book mostly feels scolding, a Kurt Vonnegut novel rewritten by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

Now a Major Motion Picture starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. A bestselling dystopian novel that tackles surveillance, privacy and the frightening intrusions of technology in our lives.

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.
 

About Dave Eggers

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DAVE EGGERS is the editor of McSweeney's and a cofounder of 826 National, a network of nonprofit writing and tutoring centers for youth, located in seven cities across the United States. He is the author of four books, including What Is the What and How We Are Hungry.
 
Published October 8, 2013 by Vintage. 524 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Oct 27 2013
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Circle
All: 51 | Positive: 31 | Negative: 20

Kirkus

Below average
on Sep 16 2013

Though Eggers strives for a portentous, Orwellian tone, this book mostly feels scolding, a Kurt Vonnegut novel rewritten by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Sep 16 2013

The plot moves at a casual, yet inexorable pace, sneaking up on the reader before delivering its warnings of the future, a worthy and entertaining read despite its slow burn.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Ellen Ullman on Nov 01 2013

Books and tweets and blogs are already debating the issues Eggers raises...“The Circle” adds little of substance to the debate. Eggers reframes the discussion as a fable, a tale meant to be instructive...The novel has the flavor of a comic book: light, entertaining, undemanding.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Oct 03 2013

Using his fluent prose and instinctive storytelling gifts, Mr. Eggers does a nimble, and sometimes very funny, job of sending up technophiles’ naïveté, self-interest and misguided idealism.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Alexander Linklater on Oct 12 2013

...Eggers's novel doesn't demand to be read so weightily. Instead, it's a nicely caricatured vision of hi-tech, soft-touch totalitarianism, a narrative thought experiment in which it's liberal idealism...that reaches a final solution.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Edward Docx on Oct 09 2013

...this is a prescient, important and enjoyable book, and what I love most about The Circle is that it is telling us so much about the impact of the computer age on human beings in the only form that can do so with the requisite wit, interiority and profundity: the novel.

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WSJ online

Good
on Sep 18 2013

As it is, "The Circle" is not great literature. But it is a great warning—one that you'll be hearing a lot more about. In Mr. Eggers's "Jungle," it's we, not the cattle, who are anesthetized and led unawares to our demise.

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Financial Times

Below average
Reviewed by Lionel Shriver on Oct 11 2013

Eggers is usually better than this. The Circle explores a number of inventive ideas, and the premise is promising. Yet because the execution is pretty lame, this novel never rises above type.

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LA Times

Good
Reviewed by Carolyn Kellogg on Oct 03 2013

...the ideas behind "The Circle" are compelling and deeply contemporary. Holland is an everywoman, a twentysomething believer in Internet culture untroubled by the massive centralization and monetization of information, ubiquitous video surveillance and corporate invasions of privacy.

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Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Dimitri Nasrallah on Dec 31 2013

Eggers executes the deepening implications of Mae’s predicament in one of his most linear and plain-spoken stories to date. For all its issues, The Circle is an openly inviting read that eschews many of the more literary acrobatics that characterized the author’s early works.

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Entertainment Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by Karen Valby on Oct 04 2013

Eggers never takes his foot off the gas as Mae plunges deeper into the cult of the Circle. He breaks his story — which is a good 50 pages too long — into three parts, each told with a sense of breathless, building dread.

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National Post arts

Below average
Reviewed by Matthew Braga on Oct 18 2013

...it reads like a less compelling 1984 for the Internet set — a totalitarian future fallen victim to its own utopian ideals, where Googley mantras such as “ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN” are trotted out without a hint of levity.

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The Telegraph

Below average
Reviewed by David Annand on Oct 20 2013

Too often The Circle introduces brilliant ideas (many of which could have been the basis for whole novels) but doesn’t follow through on their impact on wider society...

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Booklist Online

Good
Reviewed by Keir Graff on Jan 03 2014

Eggers brilliantly depicts the Internet binges, torrents of information, and endless loops of feedback that increasingly characterize modern life. But perhaps most chilling of all is his notion that our ultimate undoing could be something so petty as our desperate desire for affirmation.

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Washington Independent Review of Books

Above average
Reviewed by Nick Kolakowski on Oct 18 2013

Parable or no, Eggers' fear that we're shedding our privacy wholesale seems a tad alarmist. There will always be pushback. On the human side of the equation, though, he manages to perfectly capture the sort of hubris that demands the whole world become more "open."

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The Boston Globe

Good
Reviewed by Jane Ciabattari on Oct 19 2013

“The Circle” is biting, even vicious at times. Despite the polemics, Eggers raises timely questions about transparency, privacy, democracy, and the sinister side of the Internet.

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BookPage

Good
Reviewed by Thane Tierney on Sep 30 2013

...Eggers dives headlong into the messy question of what happens when the membrane separating our public and private selves is obliterated in the crucible of community. And in the space of a briskly moving, highly engaging 500 pages of 21st-century morality play, he circles back to a point Professor Postman made more than two decades ago...

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Good
Reviewed by Karl Hendricks on Oct 06 2013

Perhaps our need for privacy will erode as technology continues to develop and the world continues to change...the fact that these questions linger long after finishing this book is a testament to the multiple layers and potential lasting impact of "The Circle."

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USA Today

Above average
Reviewed by Bob Minzesheimer on Oct 07 2013

By literary standards, The Circle is not one of his best novels, but for the questions it raises, it could be his most important.

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Tor

Above average
Reviewed by David Moran on Oct 08 2013

The interesting—or baffling—difference between The Circle and Nineteen Eighty-Four is that Eggers gives you no one to empathize with. Unlike Winston Smith, Mae Holland harbors no rebellion in her soul. She’s a passive and pliable young person who is grateful to be so happily employed outside her hometown...

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Oregon Live

Below average
Reviewed by Dave Eggers on Oct 14 2013

...must the adventure be so predictable? We see everything that is coming, albeit having us see the action is not, in this book, Eggers forte...

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Good
Reviewed by Veronique de Turenne on Oct 08 2013

The broad strokes and broad wit plant The Circle firmly in the world of social satire. But in Eggers's accomplished hands, that turns out to be a good thing.

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Slate

Above average
Reviewed by Jessica Winter on Oct 03 2013

It’s a zippy, pulpy read that puts pressing issues into sharp relief. But its cautionary tale rests on an underestimation of people’s complicated and idiosyncratic relationships with the Internet and social media.

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The Daily Beast

Below average
Reviewed by Stefan Beck on Oct 02 2013

A tempting complaint about The Circle is that Mae is too much of a naif, too trusting of the info-hungry juggernaut even though, unlike the rest of us, she knows the true scope of its appetite.

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Forbes

Below average
Reviewed by Steven Rosenbaum on Oct 22 2013

The Circle could have been a powerful glimpse at a world gone out of control, made on connected tech. Instead it’s a pedantic and obvious narrative of a Facebook-mandatory future. A view of the future so obvious and creepy that you can’t imagine smart people will let it happen.

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Forbes

Below average
Reviewed by Kashmir Hill on Oct 09 2013

...The Circle almost feels unambitious in its forecast of the future. Given what Google X is working on, these books may catch up to reality in months rather than decades.

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Scotsman.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Stuart Kelly on Oct 14 2013

Although the concerns of the novel are signalled fairly blatantly, Eggers still manages to pull some surprises. The ending is truly shocking. The Circle is intelligent and quirky, engaged and affecting and confirms Eggers’ place as one of the most interesting novelists currently writing.

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Journal Sentinel

Below average
Reviewed by Mike Fischer on Oct 04 2013

In "The Circle," even Mae is simply a passive reflector for others' speechifying; her crudely sketched love life, troubled relations with her parents and interactions with various Circle personnel are a rickety skeletal frame...But maybe the tired prose, predictable plot and flat characters are part of Eggers' point.

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The Millions

Above average
Reviewed by Lydia Kiesling on Oct 09 2013

There are noble impulses behind this novel–to prophesy, to warn, and to entertain–and it basically delivers on these fronts. But The Circle boldly asks us to reckon it alongside one or more of the most, to use the odious word, impactful, novels of the 20th century, and it’s not bold enough to carry that weight.

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The Big Story

Good
Reviewed by Patrick Condon on Oct 10 2013

...her indifference toward the implications of her employer's schemes grows nearly maddening as the book's climax approaches. But it also effectively portrays what Eggers seems to be arguing in this thought-provoking page turner: that too many of us flock to the Internet all too willing...

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Wired

Below average
Reviewed by GRAEME MCMILLAN on Oct 11 2013

Ironically, The Circle comes across like one of the Internet trolls that Eggers promises no longer exists in his fictional world: Entirely convinced of its righteousness, unafraid to use straw man arguments to “prove” its points, and completely disinterested in dialogue when polemic is easier.

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Business Week

Above average
Reviewed by Seth Stevenson on Oct 03 2013

...some of the more Luddite-inflected, declinist rants in The Circle feel overblown. But the overarching battle dramatized here—between privacy and transparency, self-sovereignty and global connectedness—is just getting started.

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Time Out New York

Good
Reviewed by Josh Davis on Oct 23 2013

Eggers’s work, part dark comedy, part sobering glimpse into the near-future, stuns for two reasons: Mae’s humanity and compassion are apparent even as she helps erode our civil liberties; and two, it doesn’t feel like science fiction.

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Business Insider

Below average
Reviewed by Jessica Winter on Oct 04 2013

It’s a zippy, pulpy read that puts pressing issues into sharp relief. But its cautionary tale rests on an underestimation of people’s complicated and idiosyncratic relationships with the Internet and social media.

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Vox Magazine

Below average
Reviewed by LAUREN STEELE on Oct 24 2013

Unlike those other dystopian greats, high school students will not be reading The Circle in English class 25 years from now. Eggers’ ignorance of actual Web-isms, in particular the nitty-gritty details about Internet navigation and safety, takes away his credibility as a voice uncovering real technological concerns.

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Chron

Below average
Reviewed by G. Willow Wilson on Oct 11 2013

If "The Circle" had been written five years ago, it would have seemed prophetic. Today, however...the narrative feels somewhat heavy-handed. In an age of National Security Agency scandals and Facebook privacy wars, Mae's relentless gullibility is hard to swallow.

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PolicyMic

Good
Reviewed by Rob Williams on Oct 24 2013

The Circle's brilliance lies in convincingly taking us inside an extreme vision of what is nascent in the 21st century cyber-utopianism we all endorse, showing us how the visions of digital media moguls are championed and propagated by an overly-willing society.

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Elephant Journal

Below average
Reviewed by Michelle Margaret on Oct 28 2013

Overall, I was left feeling unsatisfied when I finished the book...While I do recommend reading it... I can’t say that I liked the book.

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Montreal Gazette

Good
Reviewed by Bernie Goedhart on Oct 11 2013

...as we reach for our nearest device, whether it be a smartphone or a tablet or a cellphone camera, this book might make us think twice.

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San Jose Mercury News

Good
Reviewed by Patrick Condon on Oct 10 2013

...her indifference toward the implications of her employer's schemes grows nearly maddening as the book's climax approaches. But it also effectively portrays what Eggers seems to be arguing in this thought-provoking page turner: that too many of us flock to the Internet all too willing to abandon any sense of privacy...

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GQ magazine

Below average
Reviewed by Oliver Franklin on Oct 08 2013

It's dark, if hardly subtle - The Circle lacks the taut elegance of Eggers' last novel, the excellent A Hologram For The King - and at times, borders on ranting...

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KQED Arts

Good
Reviewed by Ingrid Rojas Contreras on Oct 30 2013

While some of Eggers' criticisms of the Internet seem trite, the central question is quite clever and will send a chill down your spine...

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Vanity Fair

Good
Reviewed by Lauren Christensen on Oct 08 2013

We too want to know everything by watching, monitoring, commenting, and interacting, and the force of Eggers’s richly allusive prose lies in his ability to expose the potential hazards of that impulse.

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National Post arts

Below average
Reviewed by Matthew Braga on Oct 18 2013

For those unfamiliar with the machinations of social media, or who grew up outside the Internet’s pervasive grasp, it may delight. But for the rest it will merely frustrate, a naive vision of pixelated ruin that could more accurately be summed up as “old man yells at Cloud.”

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http://skrishnasbooks.com

Good
Reviewed by Swapna Krishna on Oct 23 2013

...the extremes to which Eggers takes things is part of what makes it thought provoking. It’s a timely book (that, as a bonus, is very easy to read) that readers who enjoy thoughtful reads should absolutely consider.

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Leeswammes' Blog

Good
Reviewed by Leeswammes on Oct 16 2013

This won’t end well for some people. But who? Read it for yourself and judge what you think: should everyone know everything about you? The Circle has some good great arguments why they should….

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Bookmunch

Good
on Oct 23 2013

There are, of course, nods to Orwell, not least in the climax of the book, but all told it is a tremendously thoughtful novel, original, appealing and intelligent, engaging with the world and painting a vision of the future informed by the Snowdon furore and the scurrying Intelligence hordes keen to look into every aspect of our lives.

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Just a Lil' Lost...

Good
on Feb 03 2014

I am known among my friends as one who is very much into social media but The Circle has definitely given me pause...I found myself frustrated and angry at some of Mae’s life choices. A very interesting and thought-provoking read, but read with caution if you don’t want to see your online presence differently.

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Book Rap

Above average
on Feb 10 2014

Do not fret, you can safely read this book on your electronic reader. You will have control on your Facebook who you want to friend and you can decide if you want to Tweet...Perhaps the circle is closing faster than we realize.

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Reeder Reads

Good
on Oct 09 2013

You’ll also find yourself talking about it with everyone you encounter. No word of a lie, I’ve talked about this book with my Mom, my Dad, my friends, colleagues and fellow book bloggers. This book is Dave Eggers at the top of his game and I’ll be shocked if you don’t adjust the way you interact online after reading this fabulous novel.

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Vulture

Good
Reviewed by Jen Doll on Oct 15 2013

At its most meta, the swirl of conversation and disagreement around The Circle actually represents a positive, and possibly intended, takeaway from the book’s bleak underlying message: that there is no one voice and no ultimate transparency, and that there shouldn’t be fear of speaking one’s mind or of saying nothing at all.

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Reader Rating for The Circle
65%

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