So which internet firm is pure evil in Dave Eggers’ new book The Circle?

Best-selling author accused of coded hatchet job on search engine

Arts Correspondent

The Circle, the “world’s most powerful internet company,” sounds strangely familiar. With its sprawling Californian campus, free canteens and sports facilities and privacy issues, the fictional company at the heart of Dave Eggers’ new book has left American technology commentators in little doubt about the reference, calling it “Google-like” and “if Google was truly evil”.

Publisher Knopf surprised fans of the Pulitzer Prize nominee by revealing that Eggers’ next work would be released in less than two months. The announcement of his previous work, A Hologram for the King, was similarly clandestine, made with little fanfare just weeks before publication.

The Circle will be published simultaneously in the US and the UK on 8 October. Neither Eggers nor the publisher made any reference to inspirations for the company. One former Google employee told The Independent the descriptions in the publicity material “sounds familiar”, but the company itself declined to comment.

The 42-year-old cult author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius does not use the internet at home, and does not even have a WiFi connection, saying that he is “too easily distracted”. The book has been billed as potentially his most commercial title yet.

His novel follows protagonist Mae Holland, who is offered a job at the Circle. The company is described as linking users’ personal emails, social media, banking and buying with its universal operating system, “resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency”.

Her delight at joining the company, with its towering glass dining facilities, all-night parties and famous musicians playing on the lawn, gradually fades away after a series of strange encounters.

Yet The Circle turns into a story of suspense, and the publisher said the work raises “questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy and the limits of human knowledge”. It is unclear at this stage what stance the novel takes on the Circle.

Google is a giant in the real-life world of technology, hitting $50bn (£32bn) in revenues last year. As well as its search engine, its services include email, the Chrome browser, Google Maps, a social network, and mobile operating system. It has been praised for how it treats its employees and the facilities it provides. On its California campus, it offers free food at the staff canteens, while there are gyms, basketball courts and pitch and putt courses, as well as pool tables.

The company has the informal motto “Don’t be evil” but has caused significant controversy in recent months – particularly over privacy. This week in a filing to  a US court, it said that those  who use its email service Gmail should have no “legitimate  expectation” that their emails would remain private.

It is not the first time that writers have considered the dark side of the internet. In 2007, Cory Doctorow wrote “Scroogled”, a short story exploring what would happen if Google decided to abandon its “Don’t be evil” motto. Google would have been more delighted by the film The Internship, described as a two-hour promotion for the internet giant, starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn.

Other works by Eggers include Zeitoun and What Is the What, while A Hologram for the King was a finalist for the National Book Award. He also adapted Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are for the big screen version directed by Spike Jonze.

Who's who?


* The world’s most powerful internet company

* Run out of a sprawling California campus

* Offers open-plan office spaces, athletic activities and clubs and brunches

* Offers “one online identity” linking email, social media, banking and retail


* “The world’s most powerful technology company,” according to CNBC

* Run out of a sprawling California campus  of 2 million square feet in Mountain View

* Offers open-plan office spaces, free food, basketball courts, gym, and pitch and putt

* Said in 2011 that Google+ was an “identity service” and those logged in can access personalised services for browsers, social media, mobile, email and calendar services

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam