Written by: Megan Angelo
Reviewed by: Joe Bones
Unlike my colleagues here at Center Field of Gravity, I’m not the biggest fan of Science-Fiction. Time travel stories make my head hurt. Space epics often feel unoriginal to me. Stories featuring robots or aliens rarely stand out from one another in my mind. The Sci-Fi stories I do find myself drawn to, however, are those that take place in the near future. In Followers, Megan Angelo describes a future that could become a reality within the next few decades. This novel is a strong debut and one of my favorite books I’ve read this year.
My favorite part about this novel is that the perspective switches between Orla and Marlow. Orla’s chapters are set in 2015 and Angelo presents the reader with a setting with which we’re all familiar. Orla is an aspiring writer, working for a celebrity gossip blog. Her goal is to become a famous writer, but she struggles to find the focus required to finish any serious writing project. Instead she spends her time trying to generate traffic, views, and clicks on her blog posts. Meanwhile, Marlow’s chapters are set in 2051, which is presented as the kind of future we dream about today. Everything is paperless, there are robot servants and automated drones, and people’s digital devices are embedded in their bodies, allowing them to use their minds to interface with their dashboard or browser. Yet not everything in Marlowe’s future is ideal. The internet is maintained and monitored by the government. Through Marlowe, the reader is shown the unfortunate consequences of a government-controlled internet.
“That’s the thing about being the mouse in the maze. You’re the only one surprised at where you end up.”
You see, Marlow is a government sponsored internet celebrity. She lives in a city called Constellation, which is more of a large compound than a small California town. Unless she’s in the bathroom or changing room, Marlow’s every move is recorded and live streamed to her millions of followers. Her life is completely dictated by the whims of the network’s representatives, who in turn answer to the government. She is forced to live out pre-written plot lines while pretending everything she does is spontaneous. The network also encourages her to use certain sponsored products, which are in turn purchased by her followers. In the future she imagines in this novel, Angelo truly redefines reality TV and the the term “influencer.” Even with the high tech Sci-Fi elements, she presents this future in a very realistic way. Both Orla and Marlow have qualities that make them very relatable to the reader and Angelo’s character development is spot on.
Like the character development, the plot development is amazingly done. Angelo creates a suspenseful narrative as Orla’s timeline moves closer and closer to Marlow’s. The reader is left guessing until the final chapters how the events set in the past will culminate into what we’re shown unfolding in the scenes set in the future. This narrative technique increases the intrigue and tension as the narrative moves toward its climax. I wouldn’t be surprised if Followers joins 1984 as a seminal piece of fiction that describes a future where, at least parts of which, have become reality.