Followers: A Novel by Megan Angelo
When I read the summary of the book, I immediately thought: Is this The Truman Show of the future? This sounds like Truman Show meets the Kardashians with a bit of Black Mirror sprinkled in. And I was right. This book is all that, and it’s just as all over the place as my description.
What’s Followers actually about?
Followers is the story of three women whose lives are connected.
Orla and Floss are two twenty-somethings living in New York City around 2015. Orla works for a celebrity-news online publication but dreams of writing a book. Floss, who’s more simple-minded, wants to be famous.
Fast forward to 2050, we meet Marlow from a town called Constellation, which is basically a gigantic and secluded movie set. In it, its inhabitants are all social media stars whose lives are livecasted 23/7 (they get one hour a day offline) and dictated by storylines that are decided by the production company that runs the town.
After growing up in the limelight, Marlow is assigned a story arch that puts her at a fork on the road. Does she want this? Will this make her happy? How does she feel about her life? As she confronts these questions, she learns some family secrets that force her to veer off her path and go in search of the truth.
But finding information that can lead to the truth seems impossible in the 2050 world Megan Angelo lays out for us. Smart devices have been replaced by some sort of chip device (think an Amazon Alexa or Google Home attached to the brain), and information is controlled by studio executives inside Constellation or by the government anywhere else. Why? Because there was some sort of disastrous event caused by the overuse of social media and the internet that caused chaos and calamity.
Sounds complicated, right?
Yeah. Complicated is a compliment. A good complicated story is sometimes chicken soup for the soul. It can take you through emotions and end in wisdom. Life is complicated, and that’s ok in a book too. But when you add way too many characters and just as many tragic subplots, it gets messy, convoluted, and it’s hard to follow.
And, just like an infomercial, that’s not all! The book is an obvious social commentary. A critique of our era of smart devices and digital isolation. Followers also tries to address the complexity of motherhood, and sometimes it nails it, but unfortunately, in an effort to cover all the bases, some of the situations feel forced and come off as an afterthought.
That said, Megan Angelo’s descriptions of feelings and spaces are masterful. The way she laid out the story alternating between 2015 and 2050 rarely failed to leave me curious to read more. Some of the characters she brought to life grew up in the 90s just like me, and I loved how she brought me back to my childhood with references that included the video request channel The Box and stalking somebody over instant messenger or MySpace.
Followers should be adapted for TV
Orla, Floss, and Marlow are complex and interesting. I really liked meeting these characters and would’ve loved for this story to have played out at a slower pace, and a bit more streamlined. I think this would make a fantastic TV series! (Pay attention, Netflix & Hulu!) But the bottom line is Followers, as a book, was overambitious.