Plot: If you had access to shows, games, chat and information directly in your mind, if you could order new clothes or share your favorite song with a thought, could you ever give it up? Titus and his friends couldn’t imagine living without the Feed. But on a trip to the moon, they are hacked and cut off from it. For them it, it is only a brief interruption, a few says of boredom but Titus’ new girlfriend Violet is different. Not only does she question the Feed but the hack that inconvenienced them, leaves her irreparably damaged.
Feed is a fascinating satire about popular culture, advertising and the many ways in which they affect our lives. While reading, I was reminded of Fahrenheit 451. There are no book burnings and the technology is different but the media and consumerism without substance and the wide-spread ignorance about the outside world were very familiar. Both books are critical of the decline of intellectualism and critical thinking. Also the show the teens watch, Oh? Wow! Thing!, reminded me eerily of the entertainment offered by the walls in Bradbury’s novel.
One important improvement, in my opinion, is the character of Violet. In Fahrenheit 451, Clarisse exist mainly to make Guy Montag question the system and his role in it. As soon as this is accomplished, she is killed off. Violet, too, makes Titus look at uncomfortable truths about their society but she doesn’t only exist for him. She is a complex character with serious problems and strongly held opinions. My heart broke for her.
Readers might find the slang that the characters use annoying and the degradation of their vocabulary, worrisome. Personally, I would be a bit unnerved if I heard my doctor say: “Okay, could we get like a thingie, a reading on his limbic activity?” (p. 69) Also the fake adds that pepper the narrative can be invasive. Of course, that’s all intentional and it can be quite funny.
Ten years after publication, Feed is more relevant than ever. With smart phones and the omnipresence of the internet, are we really that far from a feed in our heads? Scary. But though the Feed clearly has problems, I can’t completely hate a technology that offers services such as a “Cyranofeed” (and any boyfriend that brings his date to a “steak maze” probably needs one).
Meanwhile Anderson is an amazing writer. His historical novel The Pox Party blew me away and this one is almost as good. One of the things that I like about him as a writer is that he never feels the need to talk down to his teen readers. In this novel, he provides a readable, thought-provoking look at a not-so-distant future.
Author: M.T. Anderson (http://www.mt-anderson.com/)
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Year: 2012 (first published in 2002)