The Circle, Eggers' first foray into dystopia, is set in a near future where the world doesn't look that much different than now. Facebook, Google and Twitter have been replaced by one social media provider, The Circle, an organization that is part capitalist juggernaut and part the brain child of Anonymous and Julian Assange. Its philosophy is essentially that secrets cause social problems (child abductions, corrupt officials etc.), and that if all secrets are removed, if everyone knows everything, then crime won't happen. There won't be any privacy or real freedom either, but hey, man has yet to figure out how to construct a non-controlling Utopia.
Enter Mae, a 24-year-old woman who has been working in a dead-end job in her home town. Her best friend from college, Annie, is high up in The Circle and gets her a job in the Customer Experience department. Mae loves everything she sees on The Circle campus -- the cleanliness, the technology, the enthusiasm of everyone around her for what they are doing. But Mae also has an independent streak -- an essential fact about herself that she tends to deny -- that leads her to flout some of The Circle's participation philosophy and get her into trouble. It also leads her into a troubling affair with the mysterious Kalden, a man who literally can't be found in social media, even though he is clearly highly involved in The Circle.
Eggers does a great job here of taking our current reality and stepping it up a notch. While one resists, naturally, the idea that we might all be headed towards being ruled by a cult of technology, you can't help but wonder, as you read the book on your e-reader and stop to check your Facebook page and your Twitter feed (um, I mean, hypothetically) that you already are being ruled by it. Which is, I assume, his point, and which is, I assume, the reason many in the tech industry are brushing this off as a naive look at technology and where it might lead us.
I think Eggers is also brave in some of the choices he makes along the way. You might think this is headed towards one conclusion, but it isn't. Just like we don't really know where all this technology will lead us in a couple of years.
Anyway, I enjoyed it and I recommend it. And before I go off to delete my Twitter account (just kidding, folks! -- I think), I'll leave you with the read for week 45: Mad About the Boy -- the next book in the Bridget Jones series.