Dave Eggers | Fiction, 2021
I think of satire as funny. And some reviewers found this book hilarious. Longtime Dusty Shelves blog readers know that I am not particularly adept at finding humor in the written word. And I found no humor at all in The Every. I was, well, "terrified" is perhaps too strong a word, but certainly "afraid" and "uncomfortable" fit. Perhaps it is all my years working in and consulting to technology organizations that led me to find the scenarios in Egger's latest to be too realistic, too possible, too earth-shattering, too controlling, too depressing.
Have you read The Circle? It isn't necessary to have read The Circle to understand The Every, but it does provide useful context. The Every is a gigantic monopolistic organization headquartered on Treasure Island, that has bought and engulfed The Circle, along with untold numbers of other businesses. It is a super e-commerce conglomerate. The Every controls 82% of e-commerce, which is 71% of all commerce at this novel’s unstated date in the future.
Delaney Wells, a former park ranger, gets herself hired at The Every, with the intention it taking it down. While she looks for ways to destroy it, she suggests technology products that she expects the company to find reprehensible, and instead, they embrace every single one. The Every believes everything is measurable and therefore trackable and therefore goal-able and not private. Early in the book, it is technology we know well, like our smart watches and cell phones, that not only give US useful Information about our health, well-being, finances, and steps, but that transmit ALL of it to databases to analyze it and set us up to exercise, sleep, and eat on a schedule that the devices control. But that is only the beginning. Soon, we are able to buy our clothes only through an Every-owned project that ensures each piece is environmentally sound. And then there is the project that tracks our personal carbon use. Next, the Every is providing live data when you talk on the phone (or your personal cam) with someone, assessing their facial expressions, body temperature, and so forth, that tells you how honest the other person is being. By the end of the book, every conversation in our homes Is being listened to and analyzed for certain words, phrases, or tones. If a flagged word, phrase, or tone is heard, the police are promptly sent to your home. This particular project is developed as a way to prevent child abuse. And the list of Every projects goes on and on and gets more and more invasive. Eventually the company comes to fully believe that people want neither freedom nor choice. And Delaney's attempts to destroy The Every ramp up.
I enjoyed reading The Every, though I do not think it rises to the level of The Circle. The Every is over-long, and the "projects" become the plot line, which isn't over-compelling. However, I am glad I read it. And things heat up about page 400, when Delaney decides it is time to initiate her destruction.
(For those of you who are readers from Bend, know that there is a one-sentence reference to our fair town on page 528.)
Here is the link to the meaning and types of satire. I found this quite interesting.
So, do I recommend It The Every? Well, if you haven't read Eggers and his technology-driven dystopian novels, I would recommend The Circle over this book. If you read and were moved by The Circle (a book I think about often), I recommend this. It takes every terrifying technology abuse one (or more) steps further.