Big Brother and Black Mirror – “Followers”

TitleFollowers AuthorMegan Angelo 

  • Genre: Science Fiction, Fiction, Dystopian, Speculative Fiction
  • Words to describe: Black Mirror-esque, Big Brother-esque, thought-provoking
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

READ IF YOU…

  • Want a lighter dystopian
  • Are in the mood for a tech sci-fi with AI and social implications
  • Like the idea of living in a futuristic city not unlike our current one
  • Enjoy contemporary commentary on society, politics, and people

Followers definitely had a Black Mirror feel to it, mixed with 1984‘s Big Brother. A book about how technology can take over lives – and not always for the better. And with a 1984, Big Brother feel, twisted with a Black Mirror edge, the book is both cautionary and hopeful. Mostly cautionary.

This book covers Floss and Orla in 2016, two friends who have a frenemy relationship, it seemed to me. Orla helps Floss become social media famous, which is all Floss wants to do. The second story arc also follows Marlow in 2051. Floss also shows up in the 2051 arc in as Marlow’s mother. It shows how far from grace she’s fallen, and how she is in 2051 was molded in 2016.

Marlow, living in 2051 is one of those whose lives are constantly live-streamed, except for a few minutes off-camera that she gets to do thing like go to the bathroom.

Her live-stream is sponsored by corporations, and every person has devices attached to the skin that the corporations use to communicate with them. Marlow has millions of followers who watch her live-streams and leave comments, but she feels empty.

The corporations control everything – they even decide when she has to have a baby arc – every girl at age 18 has her eggs harvested, and at age 35, the corporations decide Harlow should have a baby for her live-stream story arc. She gets to decide the gender and characteristics of the baby – the society supports genetic engineering. But Marlow doesn’t want a baby and decides she’s going to rebel and leave the corporation and live-streaming community behind. This sets off a hunt for her with a huge sum on whoever finds her first.

I thought the book dragged on in places, and I guessed the twist partway through, but overall, a decent narrative. I did find the idea of how social media impacts lives and psyches intriguing – this isn’t just the typical “how many likes can I get,” but more, “how is my sense of self dependent on how famous I am, no matter how the fame arrives.”

It seems cliche, yes, but it was a good exploration of social media fame gone wild. The political threads sewn in were prefect – it touched on Trump’s “wall,” in such a perfect way, I smiled on how it came to be in the story arc.

There’s a sense of redemption to the book’s theme – redeeming yourself from societal expectations and reinventing yourself away from prying eyes and running mouths. The book made me feel trapped, whatwith the live streams and not having control over your life due to the corporations. I didn’t think the book was anything extraordinary, like 1984 is, but it still opens the doors to further discussion.

What I loved were the two timelines that seem so far apart from each other but in fact, aren’t. I wanted to spend more time in 2051, with the Big Brother threads, but spending time in 2016 was also a great read, especially as 2016 isn’t too long ago.

3 thoughts on “Big Brother and Black Mirror – “Followers”

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