Hardcover, 384 pages
Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Publisher: Graydon House
Genre: Science fiction, dystopian fiction
2020 is starting off strong when it comes to literary debuts. In both fiction and nonfiction, the past couple of months have brought plenty of new voices to the forefront. Megan Angelo’s first novel, “Followers,” made waves with its release by tackling contemporary issues through a science fiction and dystopian lens. This approach is certainly in good company, as dystopian fiction has soared in popularity over the past decade or so. Rather than looking at dystopia rooted in corrupt government or the apocalypse, Angelo looks at the consequences of social media on our society and the future.
“Followers” is told in split timelines, alternating between a social media star named Marlow in 2051 and an aspiring author named Orla in 2015. Marlow is struggling to figure out who she is outside of her celebrity status, and Orla is prepared to throw away any semblance of ethics in order to help herself and her friend become famous.
Phones are nonexistent in Marlow’s time, as the result of something terrible which changed the world during Orla’s generation. Because the events shaping Marlow’s world are not revealed right away, I found myself having to go along with the book without understanding exactly what was going on. Luckily, the pieces fell into place about halfway through the book and set up the tension fueling the second half of the book.
Except something happened. Once I hit that 50% mark, I did not want to read anymore. “Followers” lost all my interest, and it never came back, although I can admit the last 30 pages or so were incredibly heart-touching. Even now, a few weeks after I finished reading “Followers,” I still cannot put my finger on the exact reason I stopped liking it.
I have a few theories, and my best guess is these reasons all came together to create a book I ended up not enjoying. First, the subject matter. I am no huge fan of social media by any means, and as a result I was not able to connect with the characters who make their living being social media influencers and capitalizing on their internet-based fame. Just like the social media they were obsessed with, a lot of the characters are very shallow, self-centered people. I get this is the point of the 2015 sections of the book: Orla and her friend are so focused on fame they neglect to see how it can—and does—easily ruin their lives. Even so, I found it difficult to find any redeeming qualities in many of the characters. I know a big part of this book is a warning against the allure of social media attention, but I would have enjoyed some complex characters as well.
The science fiction and dystopian aspects of the book were lacking as well. Some of the reveals were so out there I could feel my suspension of disbelief falling apart. I am not a fan of spoilers, but here is a small one to give you an idea of how ridiculous the storyline ends up becoming: Donald Trump does build his wall, but it is around Atlantic City, which is then declared a sovereign nation and renamed Atlantis. Not kidding.
Angelo brings forth a fair share of good ideas in “Followers,” but it lost me halfway through. I have found myself, surprisingly, thinking about the book a few times since I finished it, but it was more to consider the potential ramifications of family and social media than to praise the book. If social media is your thing, go ahead. But if you are looking for a strong, believable plot and realistic characters, I suggest you look elsewhere.
Paige Holmes is a senior journalism major from Topeka, KS. Reading is her favorite thing to do because it teaches one how to think, imagine and live. Paige believes there is no better way to learn something or be entertained than by reading a book. Her favorite genre of books is fantasy/thriller and her favorite book is ‘Opening Moves’ by Steven James.