Megan Angelo’s novel, “Followers,” outlines an ominous future: Society tightly linked to devices, political decisions made via Twitter, people monitored by drones or robots and obliged by sponsors of reality shows to buy mind-numbing drugs.
Angelo’s story begins in New York in the year 2051, when the internet is controlled by the federal government and all citizens must have a permanently installed device “pressed into the softer side of her wrist” that does all “its work inside the user’s head.” The main character is Marlow, a reality show star on the Constellation network, where success is determined by the number of “followers.” Her behavior, “to look contented,” is manipulated by sponsor Hysteryl, a tranquilizer manufacturer.
Marlow had been on the reality show since she was born, but now age 35, she’s losing followers she gained when producers arranged a marriage for her. So the network decided Marlow and husband Ellis should have a baby. While designing their child by “assembling the baby’s DNA,” Marlow discovers she is not genetically linked to her father, and embarks on a journey to find her biological father without her device and tranquilizers.
The storyline takes readers back to the year 2015, when people lavish time on their phones, carelessly sharing personal information — until Russian hackers break into America’s system. A blackout ensues and systematically Russia begins releasing private information causing major hysteria until the government takes over the internet, which puts an end to private accounts.
This narrative is disturbing, because some elements seem probable in our future, and it prompts one to take a closer view of our current obsession with technology. Angelo’s characters, she states, are reflections of today’s leaders and actors — a President building a “beautiful wall,” and threats against protestors. In her introduction, she writes that her story was shaped by our lives today, “iPhones, Instagram, white guys, and the Kardashians. Our cars. Our dogs.”
Angelo’s novel is not a fast, but rather compelling, read, because it prompts thoughtfulness, an introspection of our society and how easily technology is used to manipulate our lives.