Jun 21, 2018

“For many people, it is the novel of this autumn, for some even the novel of our era.” These were the words that Denis Scheck used on 10/05/2014 in the German TV-show “druckfrisch”, broadcasted on ARD, to introduce his interview with author Dave Eggers and computer scientist, artist, musician, composer, author and entrepreneur Jaron Lanier.

Critique of Facebook, Google, Apple and so on, covered as a thrilling story?

Writer and jurist Juli Zeh considers Dave Eggers’ novel The Circle, which is about total surveillance, to be an “important, meaningful contribution” (Deutschlandradio Kultur) to the social debate.

The plot can be summarized in just a few sentences: by assuming her new job for Circle, a global internet group, and being supported by her friend Annie, Mae soon becomes a model employee of the company. The Circle strives to provide everyone with their own internet identity to thus gain comprehensive social control over individual people. Mae quickly anticipates the peer pressure building up within the group, and the consequential condemnation of all nonconformists goes hand in hand with the creeping loss of all her private rights. The more Mae lives in full transparency the more she loses her identity. If that’s what you want to call it: Orwells 1984 reloaded.

All this is told like on a taut golden thread, without any turns and without providing a bit more information on the other characters. I personally would have liked to see more turns and takes, more of a “Circle“.

The author spread his story across 560 pages. However, you will unfortunately not find the thrill on any of them. With each single page, The Circle gets more boring. The plot is banal, one-dimensional, and free from any true surprises. The characters are inexpressive, the storyline seems quiet artificial and easily predictable. Some sex is added as an enhancer however, for a book that should be the “novel that describes our era”; it seems as if written by someone who had a lot of ambition but only moderate talent.

The hype regarding this novel, with respect to the content is just about understandable, even if there are barely any new aspects and surprising facts being contributed – in terms of literature in no form at all. A current and indeed essential subject is missed and wasted completely in a very trivial form.

Is it a good book?

To unconditionally answer the question: no, it isn’t a good book. In fact, The Circle is most obviously even a particularly bad novel. Schreibt Ijoma Mangold (Link to German Wikipedia) for Zeit online.

Dem schließe ich mich voll und ganz an. Ich habe dann nach 230 Seiten aufgegeben. A book that is just as commonplace as the related german website provided by “The Circle’s” German publisher Kiepenheuer & Witsch.

Michael Sprengart

Dave Eggers: The Circle, translated by Ulrike Wasel and Klaus Timmermann, Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2014, ISBN 978-3-462-04675-5