Member Reviews

Had to DNF this book 20% in. I really wanted to live this, I’m a huge fan of the Twin Peaks pitch, but apart from being weird it doesn’t deliver in that front.
It opens strong, but then feels like it looses it’s way. Also don’t feel like we ever really got anywhere with the main character other than her looking for her brother.

Was this review helpful?

When her twin brother goes missing in Northern California, Vivian Owens follows his trail to the town of Mount Hookey, home to the followers of Telos: a mountain-worshipping cult that offers spiritual fulfilment to those who seek it.

While trying to navigate the town’s bizarre inhabitants and the seductive preaching of the initiates of Telos, Vivian will have to confront questions about herself, her family, and everything she thinks she knows about the world. She quickly realises that her search is about far more than her missing brother – it is a quest for the secret of happiness itself.

To that end, there is only one question she needs to answer: what is really at the top of Mount Hookey?

I almost slightly enjoyed the weirdness and it was nicely written.
It kept me hooked all the time.

Was this review helpful?

From the intriguing opening, I was hooked. Vivian is searching for her missing twin and she ends up in a weird little town where the people seem to worship the mountain. She ends up learning about the cult of Telos and its band of rabid followers, many split into different groups. I was really into the book's exploration of cults, charismatic leaders and the way they influence people into buying what they're selling.

Vivian is a pretty blank slate. I found her optimism misplaced, it's hard to believe she would carry on the quest after losing her money and things. The other characters are not fully fleshed though I did find them interesting. I wish the story ends up weirder and darker though. I thought the ideas are fantastic but they're not in-depth enough and the ending is too neat. I suppose if you're looking for a missing person story, this would be a satisfying story. But as a larger narrative about cults, otherworldly beliefs and the wellness industry, it misses the mark for me. Still, I thought the book had its memorable moments and I'll be sure to check out the author's other work.

Was this review helpful?

3 for neutral, gave up reading after multiple tries, could be my mood, but likely just not for me. Will update review if able to enjoy at a later date.

Was this review helpful?

This book's blurb made it sound perfect for me - a twin following her missing brother into a cult - and the comparison to Twin Peaks and Welcome to Nightvale was exciting.
After reading the novel, I kind of felt let down. Where was the eerie, the strange, the off-putting? It felt more like a typical missing person mystery than what the blurb promised, and I would worry that a lot of people will feel misled.
Overall, it was a good story, just not the one I was promised.
Thanks to the publisher and to NetGalley for the advance copy to read and review.

Was this review helpful?

This book is just a barrel of false advertising. It is not much of a mystery/thriller, not really. And it's definitely not delivering the quirkiness you might expect from the Night Vale/Twin Peaks comparisons. And then it finishes, without following up on its two major plot points.

Was this review helpful?

This title will be for the niche audience that like really dark/horror stories, which is not me. IIt was also too strange for me. I think the writing was OK. It just was not a good choice for me.

Thanks for the free review copy!

Was this review helpful?

As the parent of twins, I can attest to the fact that twins can be as sweetly devoted yet as deeply strange as the siblings depicted in this novel. After the death of his father, the already rather odd Jesse Owens (yes, really) starts looking for meaning in all the most metaphysical places. His search leads him across an ocean and a continent to the Northern California town of Mount Hookey, where the inhabitants are devoted to the idea of a Crystal City in the mountain, as promised to them by John of Telos, a messianic figure from the 1970s who was enlightened by beings from a place? a race? a state of mind? called, unsurprisingly, Telos.

Since the 70s, any number of schools have sprung up around The Violet Path to Telos, and it's to these that Jesse has applied his considerable mind and inherited fortune. His twin, Vivian, is used to his strangeness, to his inability to function well in mainstream society. When he goes missing, Vivian knows that it's up to her to find him and bring him home.

Unfortunately, hippie NorCal is way out of her comfort zone, even before she's violently mugged in the neighboring town of Lewiston while journeying to Jesse's last known location. She enters Mount Hookey almost as a drifter, and soon finds herself trying to untangle a bewildering web of New Age offshoots and practitioners in her search for her twin. People are either overly helpful or shy away from her for no reason she can discern, but the one thing most of the residents agree on is that she shouldn't go up the frigid, forested mountain, and certainly not by herself. But if that's where Jesse went, Vivian will have no choice but to follow, even if it leads her straight to danger.

For all its brooding weirdness, The Follower is at its heart a satirical examination of New Age cults and the brutally cynical thinking behind them, threaded through with ideas on reaching your potential and what that means in our modern world. Tonally, it feels a lot like The X-Files, with a skeptical Vivian trying to find her much more believing brother in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, with a little bit of The Simpsons in both the appearance of a mysterious glowing figure and in the absurd, often oblivious humor of the townsfolk. The most touching part, to me, was the examination of family, the bond between siblings as well as the bond between parent and child. Parents don't mean to ruin their children, mostly. The comparison of Vivian and Jesse's relationship with their dysfunctional parents to the mindsets of the followers of Telos is thought-provoking, especially as a parent myself.

I actually wish that that comparison had been explored and extrapolated a little more. As it is, The Follower feels slight, almost as if it's reaching for a deeper meaning but, like the Telurians, not quite getting there, perhaps on purpose. As a satire it works, with the family drama bringing in some needed pathos, but I still don't understand certain plot points. Why were Vivian and Judy brought at that particular point in time to the stagnant lake? Who died in the shootout, and what's the deal with the second lavender figure? I also thought that if the twins wanted any shot at healthy futures not mired in the crippling insecurity that governs their day to day, a better resolution should have been found with the corporate offices of Telos. The book ends on a wonderful image, but I feel that the plot threads needed to be wrapped up less ambiguously.

Overall, I found this book less compelling than Nicholas Bowling's last novel <a href="">Alpha Omega</a>, a dystopian adaptation of Hamlet -- and don't think I didn't scrutinize The Follower for parallels to Twelfth Night! But it was still an entertaining look at the mysteries of modern cults and modern families, and an overall fun and thoughtful if incomplete-feeling read.

The Follower by Nicholas Bowling was published July 20 2021 by Titan Books and is available from all good booksellers, including <a href="">Bookshop!</a>

Was this review helpful?

Between the time I downloaded this book on Netgalley and the time I finally sat down to read it, it managed to gather some seriously terrible reviews. From dnf to finished and hated. And this is the sort of thing that would normally make me put the book away and forget about it, but in this bizarre instance it actually spurred my interest on.
Plus, to be fair, it had to do with cults. And I love all things to do with cults. And so, forewarned and forearmed, I ventured into this story and, lo and behold, survived with good things to tell.
There’s nothing wrong with this book. Granted, I didn’t read the disparaging reviews in great detail, because of the strategical plot integrity preservation, but then again I might, after this, just to see what they didn’t like so much about it, because for my money this was a perfectly good read. It was intriguing, compelling and well written. It didn’t drag, it didn’t dally and it didn’t disappoint either.
The Follower is a story of a young English woman without much real life experience due to a cushy existence provide by her family money, who comes to Northern California to track down her vanished twin. Wherein she, Vivian, is a reasonable person, her brother, Jesse, has always been up in the clouds, always searching for something, some secret profound meaning in life. In other words, exactly the sort of person to end up in a cult.
The cult in question is Telos and its followers have more or less taken over the entire small town Vivian comes to, although no one will give her a clear answer of where Jesse is. And so she sets of to investigate, only to find out the truth straight from the stranger than fiction bucket. It’s interesting, original and pretty out there in a good way.
It’s a trippy journey that has quite understandably gathered David Lynchian comparisons, it’s pretty much a gimmie when it comes to weird small towns. But the thing is, this book needs no comparisons and can comfortably stand on its own two feet 257 pages.
I really enjoyed the weirdness of it and thought the author did a great job of maintaining both the suspense and the overall atmosphere of WTF is going on here without resorting to trickery and cheap ploys. You pretty much follow Vivian’s trail, this is her story, you get to experience it alongside her, you’re along for the ride. And it’s a really fun ride.
Fans of the more linear bizarro, dark trippy speculative or, of course, cult related fiction should find much to delight in within these pages. I did. Go on, go to the top of the mountain, if you dare. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.

Was this review helpful?

Twins, mountains, weird behavior and cults... what else could I possibly want from The Follower? I was sucked in by the blurb straight away and then the cover was just a lovely bonus on top! Did The Follower deliver everything I hoped for? Kinda. Was it a fun reading experience? Sure! Thanks to Titan Books and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The line between someone with your wellbeing in mind and someone who wants your money is thin in the wellness industry. As I mentioned in my review for The Hive, there is a big desire out there to convince you to spend as much money as possible in order to be happy, healthy, and beautiful. And because we all do want those things we are easy to exploit. In The Follower Bowling takes a closer look at these selfhelp/wellness/religious groups that sell lectures and retreats meant to help you reach enlightenment, whatever that might mean for that particular group. Borrowing elements from Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, and whatever else is of interest, it can be hard to tell what exactly these groups are hoping to achieve, aside from your credit card details. Is it obvious that I'm skeptical? I love books that explore this, both in fiction and non-fiction, so that aspect of The Follower was right up my alley, even if the novel wasn't quite as sharp in its depiction or analysis as I would have hoped. That Bowling doesn't answer the question for us, doesn't draw a clear line between "it's all real" and "it's all fake", however, was exactly what I had hoped for.

Vivian is looking for her brother, Jesse, and literally everything has already gone wrong before she even makes it to Mount Hookey, the last place he reported back from. She has had everything stolen, phone, money, passport, and is now adrift in this odd world of crystals, robes, and dowsing rods as she tries to figure out where her brother has gone and how he became sucked into Telos. Telos itself is a Greek word, meaning 'end' or 'purpose' and that is what the Telos followers in The Follower look for: the reason for it all. Has Jesse found it? Will Vivian have to find it in order to find him? From this premise, Bowling's The Follower spins a tale that moves between critiquing the self-help industry to a thriller that moves at breakneck speed. At its heart is the relationship between Vivian and Jesse, something which did land despite the fact we don't really know Jesse. There were some scenes, like the incident with the foal, that shake the reader out of complacency and might strike some as a step too far, while others, the descriptions of the Telos worshippers, that almost felt too tame for me. The Follower has a strong ambiance, rooted in the presence of the mountain, the dingy light in motel rooms, and the humming of believers. It doesn't always move beyond that, which is a shame.

This is my first read by Nicholas Bowling, although his Witch Born has been calling my name for a while! So many aspects of The Follower were thought out and planned well, while some perhaps needed a little extra push. I saw the big twist coming from the beginning, due to a number of very (perhaps unintentionally) heavy hints, which didn't take away my enjoyment but did mean I wanted Vivian to catch up with me. I wasn't as in the moment with her, because of that, as I would have liked. Vivian is oddly detached in this novel, consistently getting hurt, completely disconnected from the "normal" world, veering between belief and skepticism. The characters around her feel a little pastiche, the Cop, the Gullible Housewife, the Distracted Mother, the Teen Rebel. Again, while this didn't necessarily stop the enjoyment of reading The Follower, it did limit it to a certain extent. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Witch Born and Bowling's future books, even if The Follower didn't hit every note for me.

The Follower is an intriguing novel with a fascinating premise. While not everything worked out perfectly for me, I was gripped until the end.

Was this review helpful?

The Follower is billed as Welcome to Night Vale meets Twin Peaks, a bizarre tale of a young woman from the UK who travels to the strange little town of Mount Hookey in California to try and find her missing twin brother, who joined one of the odd cults that seem to run the town.

The story follows Vivian, a woman in her early twenties who's travelled to the other side of the world searching for her flaky twin, Jesse. The family had recently faced some personal tragedy when their father died, and as their mother seems to barely have a grasp on reality it's up to Vivian to go searching when her brother disappears after joining the followers of Telos.

Things begin with Vivian arriving in Mount Hookey after being assaulted in a nearby town, where she was knocked unconscious and left with to black eyes. Left without any money, credit cards, her phone, or her passport Vivian has very few options open to her, but chooses to keep on searching for her brother. She discovers that rather than there being one unified Telos cult in the town there are several different factions, who are often at odds with each other, and that Jesse could have been connected to any of them.

Trying to find answers, Vivian gets the cryptic clue that her brother 'went up the mountain', searching for the crystal city of Telos. Travelling up after him she ends up receiving another head injury, and in her muddled haze sees a strange glowing figure. When she manages to return to town she learns that there might be an even bigger mystery going on when she's approached by another family searching for their own missing relative.

The Follower sounded like a book that should have been perfect for me. The creepy and weird franchises it was being compared to are the kind of thing that I really like; and I've always found that a good cult story tends to be a lot of fun for writers to come up with some seriously odd ideas. But despite being compared to some very weird stories The Follower felt pretty mundane for the most part. Perhaps this was my own fault, that I was hoping for something really weird where you're left wondering what the hell it is you've just read; but the book read much more like your standard missing person thriller for the majority of it.

Most of the book focuses on Vivian as she searches around the town, speaking to various members of the Telosians, occasionally chatting to people who're nothing to do with the religion. She hangs up missing posters, and generally looks down at the inhabitants of Mount Hookey as she judges them for their odd beliefs. For the most part this seems to be Vivian's only character trait, and despite following her for the entirety of the narrative I felt that I never really got to know her. There was little to her character other than wanting to find her brother, and we never got to know anything about her; about her personal life, friends, partners, hopes for the future. If anything she seemed like an empty vessel just moving the plot forwards.

The book is written from the third person, and as such we rarely got a glimpse into Vivian's thought and feelings. This lead to me feeling pretty detached from her; which didn't help when she made what I thought were some odd decisions. For example, she begins the book having just been mugged and has none of her money or important personal items with her. She literally has the clothes on her back and a stack of fliers. Instead of getting in contact with her bank of her embassy she just carries on; even though she has no money for food. It's also odd that she's putting up posters with her contact detail on it when her phone's been stolen.

Perhaps some of this is down to the number of head injuries she sustains over the course of the book, being hit in the head or knocked out at least half a dozen times over just a few days. Once of twice would have been one thing, but by the end of the book it was becoming something of a running gag. Sadly, it also leads to what I felt was a pretty disappointing moment when all seems lost, when she's fighting to save her brother and she gets knocked out, only to wake up being told not to worry about it as other people sorted it all out no bother. I ended up feeling a little disappointed that the tension was undermined so quickly afterwards, and Vivian made to seem to helpless.

Like I mentioned earlier, the book was billed on being weird, but never really lived up to this. There are moments as the story progresses when it looks like there is going to be something unusual happening, and there's definitely something otherworldly or explainable that takes place. But the book never tries to explain this, and it becomes a background element that seems unimportant after a short while, despite it being the thing that instigated the entire plot. The characters and the author seem happy enough to walk away from the mystery, from the most exciting part of the narrative, without any real worry; and this led to me feeling incredibly disappointed by the ending.

I'm sorry that this isn't my usual kind of review, that I'm not singing the praises of the book like I normally like to, but I just couldn't connect to the story or the characters. I'll admit that this is probably a me thing, and that other people could find a lot to like in this book. It has some interesting ideas, and whilst the book didn't set my world on fire others might really like it. So if there is anything in what I've said about this book that you think sounds a little interesting, or that you might like you should definitely give it a read to see for yourself. This is, after all, just my opinion, and this could be a book that you absolutely adore.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you NetGalley for the ARC!

I applied for this one for the cover but then saw the comparison to Night Vale. It seemed right up my alley. Unfortunately it left me wanting more. A little more depth maybe? The premise is good and intriguing, jus wanted a little more from it.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you NetGalley, Titan Books and Author for the chance to read The Follower

I'm was so dang excited when I seen I was approved for this one.
The description sounded amazing.
So I dove into it.
Couple things first......
This book has a great story line. It.could have been a bit more intriguing and more descriptive.
To be honest I felt it lagged in alot of areas.
The characters for one and the writing.
I honestly hate leaving unlikable reviews but it is what it is.

I want to say I really appreciate Titan Books for the the amazing opportunity to read and review this book.
I just wished I could have enjoyed it more!

Was this review helpful?

DNF at 31%.

I wanted to like this SO BAD. I really did. I mean, it was described as "Twin Peaks meets Welcome to Night Vale." Who wouldn't be interested in that?

Unfortunately everything felt really passive to me. A third of the way in and I hadn't connected with the.characters, the plot, or the writing. Our MC Vivian behaves really passively for someone who flew across an ocean to find her missing brother.

Idk, not for me.

Was this review helpful?

Trigger warning: If you love horses, this might not be your best choice; there's a pretty horrifying scene involving the killing of a foal that's treated and told in a way which is both "who cares" matter-of-fact *and* simply awful. This scene just about ruined the whole book for me and single-handedly brought my rating down a whole star, especially seeing as it was completely unnecessary and didn't do anything for the plot. And, I mean. A foal?!

I so wanted to love this (who wouldn't?), but unfortunately this turned out to be just an okay read for me. This had to do with the dry-ish prose ("Vivian very slowly squirmed herself until she was also propped up in her bed.") that doesn't really invoke so much as *state* - everything stays very much on the surface here, I never really "felt" the place or developed much of a connection with the characters. Speaking of which, these felt a bit undercooked to me, in that flat kind of way we know from YA fiction. These people only exist to fill a certain role or, rather, fulfill a purpose. We never really get to *know* Vivian other than through her obsessive search for her twin brother. (Who looks exactly like her, BTW, to the extent that people mistake her for him... despite the fact that they're obviously fraternal *and* Jesse is wearing a moustache. This also felt a bit YA to me.)
She's not really a person, just a sister. Everything revolves around Jesse for her; she apparently has no friends, lovers, acquaintances, not even *interests* apart from him, which might have been more convincing if the author didn't spend a lot of time at the beginning of the novel establishing that she and Jesse aren't even close. So. I didn't really get the urgency, which wasn't helped by the fact that for long stretches of time, nothing really happens. Vivian just wanders about thinking snarky thoughts, randomly talking to people she thinks are beneath her, and putting up Lost notices for Jesse, the point of which kind of escaped me - even if someone had seen him, how in the world are they going to contact her, seeing as right before coming to Mount Hookey she was assaulted and robbed of all her belongings, including her mobile? As for that, she is remarkably unconcerned with the fact that not only has she lost her only means of communication but also her money, clothes, passport (!!!) and credit cards (her attitude is that she'll get around to all that "eventually", which I found, um, remarkably chill for someone who is literally stranded on another continent). She gets whacked on the head on a semi-permanent basis, but, well, who cares? She sure doesn't. She felt so flat to me that I couldn't even be bothered to be annoyed by her, and I get annoyed by fictional characters often and easily.
Another thing I had issues with character-wise was the complete absence of normal females. Every woman apart from the MC was either helpless (Shelley, Mum), deranged (Forrest, Eenoo), clueless (every single one of them) or some dumb old-school caricature of a Wife (Minnie, Judy, Mum). If they work at all, it's at some entry-level type of job (receptionist at a decrepit motel; restaurant help); while there are cult leaders, doctors, barkeeps and firefighters galore in The Follower, they are all male. I think we get one short mention of a policewoman, but that's it. I'm not the kind of person who goes through books with a fine comb searching for gender inequalities, but this struck me as really blatant. Even the MC, who's ostensibly female, constantly gets mistaken for a guy. This is a guy's book for guys.
The cult itself doesn't really do much of anything, they seem to mainly spend their days sitting inside doing breathing exercises, drinking blue tea and doing something with dowsing rods? Which is okay because the main thing about the Telorians is that it's mostly a gigantic money-making scheme, but seriously, does this sound like an experience you'd be willing to shill out serious money for?

Now. These are all just minor niggles, but the biggest disappointment to me was the lack of bizarreness. I mean if you describe a novel as "a mix between Twin Peaks and Night Vale", the reader is allowed to expect some fundamental weirdness, some spookiness, some very specific type of characters in a very specific kind of setting, but mostly I just thought... meh. There are some strange people wandering around the scenery, but instead of going all the way to 11, the author's surrealism scale seems stuck at, say, 6 or 7. Yes, there's a weird shining figure, but that's about it for true out-there strangeness. IMO a lot more could have been done with one character's secret gigantic collection of basically everything, or the Teen Giant (the one character I thought was halfway interesting), or the Big Reveal, but we never really go to Crazytown, we only get a peek at the postcard. Everything just sort of fizzles.
I was especially annoyed by this one climactic scene towards the end where Vivian has to stop a whole gang of cultists from carrying out a particularly life-threatening, amazingly stupid plan, at which she spectacularly fails (and receives another bump to the head for her effort; what is it with the constant skull-bashing?!); there's this huge cliffhanger, and then... resolved! No biggie! This, to me, was just stupid.

There are some instances of not-so-stellar logic (a middle-aged Deadhead smokes a whole cigarette without noticing that it's actually a joint, in fact he seems to be unfamiliar with the whole concept of smoking weed; Vivian is forever calling her UK-based mum on a pay phone despite having no money, and these do not seem to be collect calls; she slides down a ravine or something and gets saved by her hoodie getting caught on something that would never in a million years be able to hold a grown woman; there's a character who's managed to live undetected by the townsfolk for decades whom it takes Vivian about five minutes to find, and then find again) and some editorial oversights (loc.3351: "Mein Leiben, Meine Weltansicht" should actually read "Mein Leben, meine Weltansicht"; loc.4076 has someone seeing a "hotel room" when it should be a hospital room).

I'm sorry I can't leave a more favourable review; I'd still like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for the chance to read The Follower, and I'm sure mine will turn out to be a minority opinion.

Was this review helpful?