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Book Review

Book Cover

Follow Me
A Quest in Two Worlds


Author: Ken Howard
Publisher: Venture Press
RRP: £7.99
ISBN: 978 1 97319 506 1
Publication Date: 23 November 2017

A birthday party should be a time of joy, but for Chris Daunt his fifteenth birthday became a time of great anguish when his beloved brother disappears. Alone and desperate to find answers Chris breaks into his brother computer to find a single message, ‘Follow Me’...

Follow Me (2017. 317 pages) is a new young adult science fiction novel by Ken Howard. The narrative is mostly told in the third person limited, for any action taking place in the real world, and first person for actions taking place in the virtual world.

There were a few structural and stylistic choices made which I thought odd. In the real world Chris and Andrew have a mother and a father named, Eileen and Guy. Their parental nomenclature is important as it reinforces their relationship with Chris, as well as validating their concern for his seemingly erratic behaviour it also goes towards reinforcing their own loss of a son in Andrew.

Throughout the book, except in a first blink and you’ll miss it reference, the parents are wholly referred to by their Christian names. The parent/child bond is such that I would find it difficult to believe any but the small minority do not think of their parents as derivative of mum and dad. This use of their first names places a distance between Chris and his parent and at best I would have conceded a step child and step parent relationship on this basis as the bonds were generally undermined by this choice.

The ages of the characters didn’t feel right either. The genesis of the whole story is of Andrew’s disappearance at Chris’s birthday party. So, in the novel Chris is fifteen which makes Andrew twenty, which felt a little too young for him to have made such a breakthrough believable. Worse still there is a passage between Chris and Lucia on page 227 which raises the odd eyebrow:

You must know I’ve fancied you like mad ever since I first set eyes on you. I think you’re amazing. And it’s not just sex – well it is that, and it’s driving me crazy and sometimes I can hardly keep my hands off you”.

Which is a sentence which is so wrong on so many levels, especially the advocating of the acceptance of illegal underage sex, when I said young adult I probably mean post-pubescent.

Andrew’s age also felt wrong for someone who had made a fundamental breakthrough in VR technology. Howard may have been thinking about Bill Gates who founded Microsoft at the age of twenty, but he did it on the back of software developed at IBM by older programmers, a better role model would have been Steve Wozniak who co-founder Apple and built their first computer aged twenty-six.

The story is split into two halves delineate by the use of different font sizes, with the virtual world having the larger font and the change to first person narrative.

Chris is having no truck with the idea that his brother just rode off into the night, on a yellow motorbike, never to be seen again. So, he investigates Andrew's bedroom which is full of his private VR project. On the computer are the two words and Chris sensing that this is more than a toy decides to take the plunge and follow the program.

The program places him into a fantasy land where the characters seem to be acting autonomously; furthermore their lives are governed by a sacred book of rules made up of cryptic prophecies. The story then bounces between the fictional world, where Chris believes he is getting information about his brothers’ whereabouts, and the real world, where he tries to follow up the clues.

As the reader we are willing to suspend disbelief that people would give credence to his outlandish claim that his brother is somehow communicating through a VR program in furtherance of the plot. With this in mind the plot works well, with the clues translating to real world actions.

As a protagonist I found it difficult to warm to Chris as he could at time be petulant and gauche and I thought his sudden loss of passion, his love interest, quite peculiarly shallow and not at all realistic.

Overall, it’s an OK read, but for me there were a lot of small decisions made which spoilt my general enjoyment of the novel.


Charles Packer

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