Review Blog

Feb 21 2013

Feed by M.T. Anderson

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Candlewick Press, 2012. First published 2002. ISBN: 9780763662622.
(Ages: 14+) Highly recommended. A good dystopian novel is frightening because it feels like a plausible extrapolation of a real-world situation. Feed goes one step further. Its social commentary is so incisive that it often seems to show us ourselves not as we could be, but as we already are. At times, its dire predictions seem not only plausible, but inevitable, and it is difficult to escape from the feeling that many of them are already coming true.
Set in a future where the internet is delivered directly to people's brains via microchip, Feed follows Titus, a teenager who is partying on the moon when his 'feed' is unexpectedly shut down by an activist. Normality for Titus and his friends is a constant stream of chat messages, videos, games and advertisements that merge seamlessly with their thoughts. The feed has eliminated the need for written communication. Thirty pages in, you can feel the narrative voice fighting against the decay of language itself, as Titus struggles to find words to express what he is experiencing.
This dystopian scenario is so skillfully explored and so thoroughly realised that it seems as bottomless as reality itself. There are upcars, air factories, disposable tables, stacking suburbs, lo-grav bars and meat tissue plantations, to say nothing of the invented popular culture and the impressive vocabulary of slang. When kids go to parties, dance music plays in their heads instead of out loud, and illegal 'malfunction' websites do the work of party drugs. The premise never stagnates - new facets are constantly being introduced - and in the final fifty pages, the dystopia escalates towards a spectacular conclusion.
The cover calls it satire rather than science fiction, which makes a lot of sense - as well as being immoderately funny, Feed is a compelling condemnation of the ways in which consumer culture and the internet are rewiring our brains, right now. This, perhaps, is the novel's most terrifying implication: that we might wake up one day to find that the world has ended without our noticing, because we had become experts at ignoring anything that our shortened attention spans were not equipped to handle. And it all becomes twice as frightening when you realise that this book was first published in 2002, before the creation of Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005) and Twitter (2006), whose feed-based models Anderson skewers with visionary precision. If this one doesn't give teenage readers something to think about, nothing will.
Samuel Williams

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