Wednesday, 19 November 2014


A good friend, adventurer and guru of the human soul, John Scott, sent me a book he thought I’d like, the sort of question-asking book that has you exasperated, excited and being turned into a compulsive liar.
Sorry….my diary is packed today …maybe tomorrow” Well it was packed, packed with the story of Mae and the Circle.

Let’s talk about the author Dave Eggers. He wrote “A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius” aged 21 and with the proceeds set up a non-profit writing and tutoring centre for kids ages 6–18 in San Francisco. He set it up as a pirate shop selling pieces of eight, peg legs, and pirate impedimenta. Already you have to love this guy.

And so to “The Circle” which is a remorselessly involving story of a dystopian world. Think Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” meets Facebook. I’m not, I think, alone in speculating about growing older in a society where not being an inveterate Tweeter and user of Tumblr is to make one as socially inept as not having a phone.

Judged out of touch and incompetent, we’re a generation of two fingered typists who haven’t heard of One Direction let alone Pitbull and DJSnake.

Mae gets a prized job at the Circle, a multifaceted corporation that’s a cross between Amazon, Google, Facebook and Enron.  Life on the campus is a re-enactment of the best of university life added to living in the heart of downtown San Francisco (a nearby city) with the best chefs and music groups in constant, suppliant attendance so influential has the Circle become.

Her journey is one from a newbie in customer service, where she excels, to becoming the voice of the organisation. Life is busy on-line and offline but mostly the book deals with and dramatizes the claustrophobia that a perfectly engineered social existence would become.
The importance of the book described as follows by the critics:

Prescient, important and very funny” (The Guardian),
Witty and troubling” (The Washington Post),
A timely warning of of the perils of the internet age” (The Sunday Telegraph),
Prescient and scary” (The Times).

Take an idea and apply the principle of “reductio ad absurdam” and you create the Circle. But the scary bit is Eggers manages to get the reader from time to time to agree with deluded Mae. It also seemed weirdly true to life.

Unlike “The Hunger Games “which depicts another more violent vision of the future this has the protagonist not a victim, for once, but in control of her destiny. She applies teenage logic to the complexities of life. The results are populist and chilling.

By the way if you want a great send up of HR read it now. It’s compelling satire.

We could end up like this but not if we’re thoughtful and critical about technology. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean that it’s right. And just because progress seems seductive it doesn’t follow that the end justifies the means.

Still…read it and worry.

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