For each of us, there will come a time. A time at which we stop, and with the most confidence that we can have, we know. And we can draw a breath and say… that it was that day, or that event, or that string of thoughts, and emotions, that started it all.
The Followers is a small novella which I’m classifying as a mystery. To elaborate, it could be described as a psychological study – part multi-verse exploration, part unreliable narrator. If I were to draw a parallel to a movie, I would probably choose Donnie Darko.
The main narrator is a young boy who climbs up a tree near his house which he refers to as his Spirit Tree. From there he sees a sinister creature prior to falling. Most of our journey is with the boy and the narrative itself is in the first person. However, there is also a secondary narrative in the third person from the perspective of a adolescent girl named Carly who is driving to a friend’s place for drinks.
To concentrate firstly on the young boy, once he falls from his Spirit Tree, his narrative splinters into two parallel but quite different stories: one inhabits a surreal dreamscape, where he pursues the strange creature he saw just before his fall; the other seems to be a somewhat regular school day upon which a supernatural apparition has intruded. I’m not a big fan of dreamscape narrative. To me, it usually follows a sequence of fairly disjointed scenes and images which ends up feeling like a shopping list. Unfortunately, this novella was not an exception. The fact that this journey was intertwined with a slightly more regularly composed narrative actually made matters worse, the scenes cutting back and forth in a disorienting fashion.
After a while, Carly’s secondary narrative is introduced, which served to make a fairly messy and tiring experience even more chaotic. Who is Carly? How does she fit in with the protagonist’s story? Why should we care who she is and where she is going?
However, in the last quarter of the story, the author starts reaping what he has sown in the earlier stages of the novella. As I was reading, I was starting to feel that some images that had seemed so random earlier, were actually quite deliberate, and that the author was actually starting to work the different threads together. Indeed, the novella heads towards a rather clever intersection that left me with more appreciation of the story construction and not a few contemplative silences.
Overall, I felt that although The Followers was a rather intelligent construction when viewed in hindsight it was a case of the end not justifying the means, or at least not significantly enough for me to praise the work enthusiastically. Fortunately, although he might not have hit a sweet spot for me on this occasion, the effort has opened my eyes to this author and I’ll be looking to sample more of his work to see if I can find something that uses a similar intelligence packaged in a format I can more fully appreciate.
Price at the time of review: $0.99 US
Author site: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5814906.Evan_Bollinger
GoodReads page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13602484-the-followers