This is the first time we have included a work of fiction in a book review, but since we are listing ideas for the holidays, this novel complements our review of Hatching Twitter. It is about life in the near future of the Internet and a Google-like company that takes the concept of connectivity to the extreme, where identity and privacy are lost.
Eggers is the author of Hologram for the King, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. This (not too) futuristic novel centers around Mae Holland, a 20-something woman who is hired to work for The Circle, the most powerful Internet company. Like Google, it is located on a vast and beautiful California campus and is run by three men known as The Three Wise Men, the owners. In this company, everyone’s emails, purchases, social media and other daily habits are monitored. Everything is transparent.
Mae quickly gets caught up in the life of The Circle and easily embraces it, eventually allowing her life to be public, even her social life existing within The Circle. As Mae moves along in her upward climb in the company, she meets the mysterious Kalden and the book takes on an element of suspense. It raises questions of memory, history, privacy and autonomy. The novel is an easy read, almost fable-like in its telling. Mae becomes more of a villain than a herione as the book nears its chilling ending. It is a fast paced novel that takes a creative and interesting look at our lives and the Internet.
Another novel that also mimics life at a Google-like company is Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, which combines the old world of ancient manuscripts with the new world of online reading . It’s a fun read, too and also suspenseful.