As Book Three begins, months have passed since Kalden reached out to Mae, and Mae is sure that she has prevented an “apocalypse.” She shudders to think what would have happened if Kalden hadn’t approached someone with her “loyalty” and “integrity.”
The suspense builds: is the “apocalypse” Mae’s talking about Completion, or the end of the Circle? Does Mae act out of loyalty to Ty, or to the Circle?
Mae is sitting in a clinic, staring down at Annie. Annie, Mae remembers, collapsed at her desk and fell into a coma. Afterwards. Dr. Villalobos concluded that Annie’s coma was probably caused by exhaustion or stress. Doctors are confident that Annie will emerge from her coma someday. Mae wonders what Annie is dreaming about and she feels annoyed that she cannot know. Meanwhile, ten million people worldwide have gone clear, which suggests that “the movement is irreversible.” Suddenly, Francis walks into the room and waves to her; Mae waves back.
Little by little, it becomes clear that nothing has changed since the end of Book Two: Mae is still dating Francis, still going to Dr. Villalobos, and more desperate for information then ever (she even wants to know what Annie is dreaming about). All of this suggests that Mae chose to obey the Circle, rather than joining forces with Ty.
Mae remembers what happened after Kalden approached her: she promised to read the letter, and then immediately went to talk to Bailey and Stenton. Afterwards, Ty was allowed to stay on campus in an “advisory role, with a secluded office.” Mae hasn’t seen him since their meeting, “and did not care to.” She also hasn’t talked to her parents in months.
Mae has finally gone to the dark side: she betrays Ty to the other two Wise Men (who have placed Ty under what seems like arrest, though they may have killed him) and cuts herself off from her parents. She’s abandoned her old life and surrendered herself to the Circle.
Still standing over Annie’s comatose body, Mae looks at the screen monitoring Annie’s brain waves. Mae feels angry that she’s unable to know what Annie is dreaming about, and she resolves to bring the matter up at the next meeting of the Gang of 40. People deserve to know what other people are thinking about and dreaming about. Mae concludes, “The world deserved nothing less and would not wait.”
The novel ends on a terrifying note: it’s implied that the Circle’s next project will be to figure out a way to read minds. In other words, very soon the Circle will have eliminated the last sanctuary of human privacy. When this happens, human beings will be slaves to the power of the Circle—they won’t be able to think a single anti-Circle thought without the Circle knowing about it. With the Circle’s totalitarian regime almost in place, the novel comes to a dark ending. But perhaps Eggers intends his novel to be a cautionary tale: it may be too late for Mae, but it’s not too late for readers to push back against the values of the social networking era and celebrate privacy, freedom, and face-to-face interaction.