I read this book in Dutch and I still can’t get over how strange it is to read books in Dutch. Now you must know that I have been reading books in English since I was about thirteen years old. For the longest time I haven’t read any books in Dutch, but lately I sometimes choose to read a book in my mother tongue. But it’s specific books, I refuse to read a book like ‘The Hunger Games’ in Dutch because the translation of young adult books and children’s books often aren’t that good in my opinion. With a book like ‘The Circle’ that is less of a problem.
A while back when ‘The Circle’ came out in the movie theaters with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson I was intrigued. It is one of those story lines which if you start to think about it won’t let you go. The implications made in the movie trailer were enough for me to get me thinking and I wanted to know more. I guess I was always a little naive when it comes to my online privacy. No, scratch that, that is not true, naive is probably not the right word because that sounds really negative and kind of dumb. What I mean is that whenever they say in the news that our email is being checked and that our phone calls, text messages or our online searches are being checked that never really bothered me. I mean, have fun with my online searches! I guess my searches are quite peculiar and maybe – no I’m sure they are questionable for someone who doesn’t know me. But I am a writer so that isn’t really a surprise. My mail and my text messages are not all that interesting, I’m pretty sure other people have way more interesting mail than I have. That is why it never really bothered me.
Privacy is extremely important and it seems that our privacy is being more invaded literally everyday. And when you read this book it gets you thinking about where you stand and what you want to keep private. And what is important to you.
On one hand what happens in The Circle seems far fetched, but let’s be honest here. Companies like Google, Apple and Facebook have a pretty big share of the market and I guess that The Circle is a fictive combination of all of those companies. And they are trying to become even bigger – worldwide and every person. What they want is to take over every single transaction and interaction on the internet, every way of communication and they want everyone to be transparent.
Mae Holland is young and ambitious and with the help of her best friend she gets a job at The Circle, the worlds most advanced and powerful internet company. A job which everyone wants. Being part of The Circle means that you are with the in-crowd and that you belong to the people who are at the forefront of new discoveries and technologies.
Mae starts at the absolute bottom of the company but soon she’s is getting more and more sucked into a world where everything is measured and where the only numbers that count are the ratings you receive and how high you rank among your peers. She gets isolated from her normal life, she’s starting to disconnect from her family and only engages in events run by The Circle.
It becomes and even more worrisome situation when she becomes the first ‘Circler’ to go transparent – previously a couple of politicians became transparent. Which means that she’s constantly wearing a camera around her neck. And everything in her life is being filmed, every conversation, every situation, literally everything. The only time she’s allowed to mute the sound is when she’s in the bathroom or take it off when she’s in bed. So literally no conversation is genuine anymore, everyone knows that they are being filmed whenever they are in her proximity. However The Circle tries to make it look like they want the world to become a better place by throwing everything out in the open. They want to use the camera’s as a way to eradicate crime and dishonesty by politicians. They believe that this is the way to make the world a better place, but is it really?
Mae is naive, she allows all of it to happen without really questioning the implications of her actions. And that doesn’t feel real. The Circle has added her parents to their insurance because Mae’s father needs medical attention. Very expensive medical attention which their regular insurance didn’t cover. And I guess that is why in the beginning Mae goes along with everything they ‘suggest’. She’s probably afraid that her father’s medical help will be in danger or even be stopped completely if she doesn’t go along with The Circle’s plans. And if that happens, his health will deteriorate. But there is hardly any suggestion in the book that she feels that way. Even when Mae’s parents break contact with her because of all the camera’s she just leaves them and when she doesn’t hear from them she doesn’t even try to contact her parents. This continues on and around Mae more and more lives get destroyed and still there is hardly a reaction. There is no conflict in Mae, the only thing she seems to worry about is a guy, a very cliche mysterious guy who seems to appear and disappear when ever it is convenient.
The book is good, it definitely gets you thinking at the same time though it is the type of book which is really easy to read. Sometimes a little bit too easy in my opinion. There is no real challenge in reading the book. However I do think that it makes the book better readable for a bigger audience. And in this case I think it’s good that it is so easy to read because more people might pick the book up and read it. And in the end it could get them thinking about their own internet safety. And I think that is the real reason why this book was written.