The Circle by Dave Eggers

Mae Holland couldn’t believe her luck. Her college roommate and best friend Annie, a Stanford MBA who had been recruited everywhere, but chose to work at The Circle, had gotten Mae a job there. Only two years out of college, and Mae has health insurance, her own apartment, and a Real Job with the hottest, highest-tech company in the world. From her very first day, she is nearly dumbfounded by the incredible techno-games, toys, and tools she sees. Everyone Mae meets is working on “something world-rocking or life-changing or fifty years ahead of anyone else.”

Annie shows her a portrait of the Three Wise Men, founders of the company. Ty, the first Wise Man, looks about 25, wears ordinary glasses and a huge hoodie, and seems to be tuned into some distant frequency. Cleverly, before The Circle’s IPO, Ty hired the other two Wise Men, serious business managers, and The Circle took off.

Annie has risen fast and high in The Circle, and is now part of the Gang of Forty, the 40 most crucial minds in the company. Mae feels incredibly grateful that Annie is her mentor, and vows to repay her. Annie assures Mae that she’ll climb fast out of Customer Experience. So Mae puts her head down and focuses on absorbing everything, dedicating herself to the company and its goals. She learns that Ty was the developer of the Unified Operating System, which has brought together everything online: your social media profiles, your payment systems, all your passwords, your email accounts, user names, preferences, every last tool and manifestation of your interests. He called it TruYou.

Mae does well, and incorporates herself into The Circle. But she starts to see a stranger lurking around campus, and starts to suspect it’s Ty. Why is he so secretive? Meanwhile, Mae wants to find to find her long-lost boyfriend. Mercer has intentionally withdrawn from technology, and has emphatically cut ties with her. Despite his deliberate rejection, in a public display of the efficiency of The Circle’s integrated tools, she hunts him down.

Does privacy exist today? Can it? Should it? If these questions intrigue you, read The Circle.

Btw, did you know that Google finally has acquired Skybox, a company whose small, cheap satellites collect daily photos and videos of the Earth? In June, the Wall Street Journal published aerial Skybox images of February protests in Kiev, Ukraine.

If you like this book by Dave Eggers, you may also enjoy Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, or Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.

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