Last Updated September 5, 2023.
David Egger's 2013 novel, The Circle, is a lengthy portrayal of the trajectory of a Big Brother technology company which gives its name to the novel's title. The novel follows Mae Holland, a young and bright recent college grad, who is given the opportunity to join this prestigious company owing to her friendship with a woman already powerful in the company, Annie (who was Mae's college roommate). The major themes are privacy and surveillance, and the place of the individual within a corporation.
Mae becomes a poster child for The Circle's aims. She complies with all of the performance metrics as a representative in the customer service department, and generally aims to please her superiors. Mae is in turn grateful for the amenities The Circle provides (including a gymnasium, various interests clubs, food, housing, and healthcare). The extent of the company's involvement into its employees lives becomes clear, however, when Annie is reprimanded for not attending an after-hours social function.
The Circle's insinuation into its employees lives is represented by several programs, including "SeeChange," a system involving an individual wearing a camera whose constant recording is available for public viewing. Mae herself wears one, and insists that her parents, too, have one installed in their home. It becomes standard practice for politicians to participate in "SeeChange."
Another such program is called "PastPerfect," which involves researching a family's history and presenting this data publicly. Annie herself is a participant in this new program, and the results that it delivers concerning her own family send Annie into a depressive tailspin. The novel closes with Annie in a coma.
The novel is a thinly-veiled allegory for the modern "big corporation." The novel (in which several of the major characters become victims) prompts its readers to ask at what cost to the individual do these corporations provide services to the public and its employees. Is there a place for an individual in a corporation? Can constant public surveillance be justified? These questions are left to the reader to answer.