Followers is a dystopia quite unlike anything I’ve read up until now. Half the book is set in 2051, mostly in the closed town of Constellation, California. Government-appointed celebrities live 99% of their lives in front of a camera, for the viewing pleasure of the rest of the country. Corporate sponsors dictate what happens in their lives, and the stars have zero input. No one is allowed to leave. Despite having millions of followers, that is precisely what Marlow wants to do when she learns her life is based on a lie.
The other half of the story is set from 2015 to 2016. In this portion of the story, you meet two women who share a singular goal. Orla Cadden is a blogger on a celebrity-gossip site, rather than the serious writer she wants to be. Floss Natuzzi, the wannabe star no one ever heard of, wants to be famous. Orla helps manipulate Floss onto the road of fame, and together, they become household names… all thanks to social media.
Then the Spill happened, plunging an entire generation into devastation and chaos. Things had to change, and they did—which eventually led to the creation of Constellation.
I liked the premise of this book, despite being initially puzzled about certain connections and events. Everything is explained, but there were times I felt impatient about how long it took to get there. In time, I could see why certain answers weren’t given sooner… and yet, the frustration lingered.
The tech used made sense in the story, but it didn’t have the wow factor for me. That probably has more than a little to do with the fact that I’m a HUGE fan of Star Trek and various other sci-fi, so I’m accustomed to more sophisticated sort of technology than the type described in this novel. The device (as it is referred to) was just fine for this story, but I didn’t finish the novel wishing I had one of my own. (A transporter or a holodeck, on the other hand… those fire up the imagination with possibilities!)
The characters were interesting, but I didn’t really feel a connection with them most of the time. Towards the end that changed somewhat, but it was late in the game for it to have any meaningful impact.
This all sounds incredibly negative, but it isn’t meant to be. With privacy being a constant concern in our digital lives, the premise of this book is not only unique, but relevant. Within the framework of this world, the cost of fame is the complete loss of privacy, raising the stakes even higher when someone attempts to regain what they (willingly) gave up. It also serves as commentary on the preoccupation with social media by the population at large, and invents a terrible consequence for it in this fictional setting… which can’t help but make the reader think about how much of their own time is spent on social media sites.
Most of the people who read advance copies of this book gave it four or five stars, but for me, three stars felt right. I enjoyed the book, but wasn’t moved to give it a high rating. Perhaps this is because I started reading Followers soon after I finished reading The Testaments by Margaret Atwood—a book I felt was exceptionally well done. Did my enthusiastic response to Atwood’s book color my perceptions of Angelo’s book? It’s definitely possible.
I’ll be curious to see what Angelo’s next book will be about, and I’ll be watching for it. I’m definitely willing to read more of her work in the future.
About the Book
An electrifying story of two ambitious friends, the dark choices they make and the profound moment that changes the meaning of privacy forever.
Orla Cadden dreams of literary success, but she’s stuck writing about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Orla has no idea how to change her life until her new roommate, Floss―a striving, wannabe A-lister―comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they so desperately crave. But it’s only when Orla and Floss abandon all pretense of ethics that social media responds with the most terrifying feedback of all: overwhelming success.
Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity―twelve million loyal followers―Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything, even horrible things, to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.
Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.
About the Author
MEGAN ANGELO has written about television, film, women and pop culture, and motherhood for publications including The New York Times (where she helped launch city comedy coverage), Glamour (where she was a contributing editor and wrote a column on women and television), Elle, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, and Slate. She is a native of Quakertown, Pennsylvania and a graduate of Villanova University. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her family. FOLLOWERS is her first novel.