“The Circle”: “1984” for our time

Posted: May 2, 2017 in Miscellaneous, Uncategorized, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m not much of a movie person; I prefer books.  One year, I believe I saw all five movies up for Best Picture, but as I try to find that year, I can’t.  And I rarely like a movie based on a book nearly as well as the book itself.  Quite a few should be neither movie nor book!  🙂

Somewhere I read something that made me pick up “The Circle”, by David Eggers, not my usual mystery/thriller tipple.  I’d like to say I couldn’t put it down.  But I had to.  It was too disturbing:  I could see where it was going and I didn’t like it.

Mae Holland’s best friend, Annie, gets her a job at “the” internet/technology company The Circle.  Mae is entranced by all the perks available, the beautiful surroundings, the cool, hip people.  Founded by The Three Wise Men, The Circle uses technology to improve the lives of people throughout the world.

Mae starts in CE (Customer Experience), the customer service department.  She excels, loves the work and the adulation, quickly moving up the ladder.  During the move, the company consumes more and more of her time.  Her father has MS and The Circle gets him on the company health plan so that he can get the best treatment available.  In order to monitor and better help him, SeeChange cameras are installed in their home.  After a prominent politician starts wearing a SeeChange device, Mae also begins to wear one or “go transparent.”  Circle mottoes are “secrets are lies,” “privacy is theft.”, and “sharing is caring.”

Mae meets a mysterious man named Kalden about whom, oddly enough in such a transparent place, she can find out nothing and who eventually tells her The Circle must be stopped. Her former boyfriend, Mercer, wants nothing to do with her transparency and technology, eventually going off the grid in an attempt to keep his privacy.  Annie, jealous of Mae, is having her own problems.  But the rest, you’ll have to read.

As the tension and technology ramp up, it becomes obvious there are only two possible outcomes:  Mae stays within The Circle or begins to attempt to work against it (or try to regain privacy and her own life.)  Will Mae go over to the dark side or stay with and support The Circle?  Which side IS the dark side?  Related, but somewhat lesser questions are: What will happen to Mercer, Mae’s parents, and Annie and who the heck is Kalden, why can’t Mae find out anything about him, why does no one else know who he is, and why does he want The Circle stopped?

Of course, the big issues are of privacy, the use/s of technology, and the right to determine your own life.  “The Circle” isn’t particularly subtle but then, neither are the issues.

Only a week or two after reading (devouring) the book, I read a review that also mentioned the movie is coming out soon.  I’m not sure I’ll see it.  The book allows the issues to unfold gradually, slowly raising the tension and questions, even though you can see where it’s headed, something a movie can only partially do.  If the movie covers the issues raised by the book, if you’re a movie person, see it.  But I recommend you read the book first.  It’s “1984” for our time.

  1. Sue says:

    I’m with you on preferring the original book over a film based on a book…..Atonement is a great example, they reinvented the ending! Ruined it!

  2. Books I have found are far superior to the movies. There just isn’t enough time to put in all the little details and back stories in a 2 hour movie.

    I’m not so sure “The Internet of all Things” is a good thing. I’m all about my privacy and if any information of me is gained from anyone it’s because I gave it knowingly, and willingly is how I’d like things to be not just with the Internet, but with companies as well.

    He-Man has speculated that data theft on the Internet will get so bad that we as people/companies stop using it for a time and go back to paper until companies get serious about privacy and protecting our information.
    With the high jackings/blackmail of banks, and intel going on right now I wonder if he’s not right?

    • It’s become very difficult to have any privacy in a time of everything being online and impossible to have things offline, especially records at places such as banks, hospitals, etc. People will even hack TV shows: https://www.cnet.com/news/orange-is-the-new-black-season-5-reportedly-leaked-by-hackers/. I wonder how many people who decry this and would be outraged if their data was stolen will watch these episodes.

      My husband’s an IT guy and reads me horrific articles about hacking. What if you have a garage/home entrance that’s digital, etc.? If you use OnStar, someone knows where you are every time you drive.

      A scary thing in this book is that much of the privacy was given up as “for the greater good.” Whose good?


      • Who’s indeed?
        I know when I shop for appliances and stuff today I look for the dumbest unit available. I don’t want a smart tv, washer, dryer, refrigerator et al!

        There’s a guy down the street with a drone so I’ve been keeping my blinds closed more after I read something about teenie tiny little spy devices, and I thought about Amazon drones delivering packages, and perhaps taking a peek inside a window to see what I’ve got and don’t have so they can send me ads online on whatever I’m reading or viewing. They do already based on my viewing of their site and their affiliates, but they do and will have drones flying around. SPOOKY thought isn’t it?

      • I know. If I look for something on Amazon, the next time I’m on FB, there’s an ad for it. The entire concern about companies is magnified when the government gets involved.

      • We’re giving up freedom for “security”, and privacy for “convenience”. Sounds like an interesting book, in line with the sort of stuff I like to ponder 🙂 I’m already on the paranoid side… what could it hurt? LOL. While I liked 1984, I tried to read it again not too long ago, and didn’t like the style so much that I didn’t get very far into the re-reading of it. I’ll give The Circle a try.

      • I think you’ll like it, Madison. I wish I could just laugh and file it under “science fiction” or “fiction” in general, but it’s all too real. Your first sentence seems to me to be the crux of the matter. As with so much else, there’s good and bad, but privacy as we used to know it is pretty much gone.


  3. This is definitely prevalent due to the amount of personal information that companies and soon Internet Service Providers are able to have at their beck and call.

    I have my own theory regarding book-to-movie adaptations that runs against the grain of most readers, but I can understand your apprehension at seeing the film version of a book that affected you so deeply.
    Fantastic review!

    • Thanks for stopping by and chiming in. I agree that the amount of data available via internet is a, or the, problem and many people don’t take enough precautions with their own data and information.

      Sometimes I don’t want to watch a film or TV adaptation simply because I don’t want to have my ideas of what the characters look like taken over by the director’s idea. 🙂 Our whole family loves “Lord of the Rings”, so we were quite apprehensive about seeing the first one. Afterwards, we talked through all the differences, but felt that overall, it was true to the book and certainly to the spirit of the book, and greatly enjoyed the entire series. We did part company with the much-too-long version of “The Hobbit.”

      Glad you enjoyed the review.


  4. Suzanne says:

    It is a good book. The movie could be interesting. It would make a lot of people question how much power we all give to search engines. The issue of privacy is becoming a major problem. The Circle as a movie would make more people aware of the issues. Personally I prefer books but many people only watch movies. We need more movies that make people think.

    • You have a point, Suzanne, about the movie reaching more people than the book. Let’s hope the movie version is true to the book. Perhaps that will start a dialogue (or continue one.)


      • Suzanne says:

        It might. I know a lot of younger people who don’t read so much but love movies. Maybe if they start talking about the issues raised in the book things could change.

  5. Dan Antion says:

    That sounds intriguing. I usually prefer reading the book.

  6. joey says:

    Books are always better. I AM a movie person, but the books are always better. Even when the movie’s done well.

  7. I haven’t read the book, but I have heard all the buzz surrounding the movie and am quite intrigued… I might have to choose the compromise between the two: Listening to the audiobook. 😉

  8. Su Leslie says:

    I’m with you (and the majority here) Janet. I can only think of one book to movie transition that I’ve liked, and that was John Buchan’s “The 39 Steps’ and even then, it’s only one adaptation of several that I think works. I’m not a LoTR fan at all — print or movie — but I do agree with you about “The Hobbit.” Thanks for the review of “The Circle” 🙂

  9. JT Twissel says:

    It does sounds like non-fiction, doesn’t it?

  10. marianallen says:

    Excellent review! Makes me want to read/notread the book at the same time — a sure sign you’ve communicated the content, tension, and effect. I’ll keep an eye out for this one. Thank you!

  11. jcproblog says:

    Hi, my name is jon
    Great Blog. I read this 1984 for a writing, course I took in college. I was not a fan of this book. 1984 was very confusing book first. I watch the mobie as I was reading the book which help me to understand the book much better. Once I started to understand book from the movie than it was easier for me. I like your version of the movie you created. 1985 was great because it talks about one whole society listening to rules and one man called “Big brother “. The famous phrase was Big brother is watching you”. Great story.

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