Dave Eggers’s “the internet is bad, guys,” book The Circle was released in October of 2013. It wasn’t any kind of sales phenomenon when it was released, even though there is a Tom Hanks-starring film adaptation scheduled for production sometime soon. It was a fairly ham-fisted look at tech culture, and becomes more and more obviously unsubtle with every passing year and season of Silicon Valley. And yet! And yet it seems that, according to a new algorithm — our new mathematical gods, algorithms — The Circle has everything it takes to be a bestselling novel in 2016.
Jodie Archer and Matthew Jockers — a former publisher and a co-founder of Stanford University’s Literary Lab, respectively — devised the algorithm to be included in their new book, The Bestseller Code, which, as the title alludes, aims to distill the formula for creating and publishing books that become bestsellers. However, the fact that the algorithm points to The Circle as “the single most paradigmatic bestseller of the past 30 years,” paired with the fact that The Circle didn’t sell very well — Bookseller points out that the novel only sold 43,638 units in the UK — doesn’t inspire much hope in the accuracy of the algorithm.
The pair concluded the explanation of the algorithm by saying, “The algorithm appears to have winked at us all. We weren’t sure whether we should take a sledgehammer to it, or buy it dinner.” Can algorithms eat, now? Is the world really coming to this, where our books are dictated by faulty formulae that we then have to feed? Can we at least turn them into robots first? Oh no, this is exactly what The Circle foretold: becoming slaves to technology. Three years after its release, and already it’s coming true! Too bad nobody will know because nobody read it.
Also, if this algorithm were correct, it would simply state, “the key to a bestselling novel is appealing to the Young Adult market or having Stephen King’s name attached.”