Feed


Feed, by M.T. Anderson, took me completely by surprise.

“An eerie futuristic novel.…Kids’ brains are wired into the television and other entertainment media from birth, making them totally driven by consumer marketing. This is fiction?” —Boston Globe

“Nightmarish.…Like those in a funhouse mirror, the reflections the novel shows us may be ugly and distorted, but they are undeniably ourselves.” —The Horn Book (starred review)

In Feed, everybody is connected to the Internet through the feed, a chip in their brain. This means that you’re never alone. You’re always up to date, instantly. You’re at the height of everything. The feed knows what you want before you do; it advertises nonstop.

“What we wish for, is ours. It is the age of oneiric culture. And we, America, we are the nation of dreams.

In Feed, the global government is a complex place, but nobody really cares. The main character, Titus, receives brief snippets of worldwide news through the feed, but he barely even registers their existence, even when it might involve him, personally. America has become a place of consumers and suppliers, citizens and corporations. These corporations control the feed, so they basically know everything possible to know about you; they live in your head.

“We went to the moon to have funbut the moon turned out to completely suck.

Feed opens with Titus and his friends on the moon. They went there for vacation, but it turned out that the moon wasn’t what it had been last time they were there, and they were bored. They roamed around and found this girl named Violet, who Titus immediately found fascinating. Violet accompanies them to a place where a hacker malfunctions their feeds, and they end up in a hospital, feedless.

This is a strange experience. They don’t have anything to do but talk, and Titus falls in love with Violet.

When their feeds are fixed, they go home, and Titus and Violet spend more and more time together. Violet is a fresh perspective. She’s always new; she’s slightly disjointed, slightly at an angle to society that Titus has never really thought about before. She always has something interesting to say to him. But, inevitably for someone with this sort of opinion in a society such as this one, Violet’s conversation turns steadily darker—as the book does exactly the same thing.

…It’s like a spiral: They keep making everything more basic so it will appeal to everyone. And gradually, everyone gets used to everything being basic, so we get less and less varied as people, more simple. So the corps make everything even simpler. And it goes on and on.

This book has so many different layers of depth that I don’t even know where to start. There is so much symbolism—so many semi-pithy statements that may or may not have originally been intended by the characters to result that way, but that are hard to understand. This book deserves at least a second reading, probably even a third. This is a book group book—a discussion book—a dissection book. This is book is a classic, an explanation of How We Got This Way. Like Brave New World, this book shows the dangers of life today, and it can only get more relevant, unless humanity—consumers—stop being so passive and start looking at who is actually controlling their lives, consciously and subconsciously.

You’re the only one of them that uses metaphor.

Titus is an interesting main character to pick. He seems to have slightly more depth than the others. He speaks—thinks—with far more poetry than is demonstrated by any other character: “She rubbed my head, and she went, ‘You’re the only one of them that uses metaphor.’ She was staring at me, and I was staring at her, and I moved toward her, and we kissed. The vines beat against each other out in the gray, dead garden, they were all writhing against the spine of the Milky Way on its edge, and for the first time, I felt her spine, too, each knuckle of it, with my fingers, while the air leaked and the plants whacked each other near the silent stars.”

However, he is still incredibly shallow. At the beginning of the book, I didn’t mind him, because he was an example of the time the book takes place—as, being the main character, he should have been rightfully. As the book progressed, I began to like him more and more the more time he spent with Violet. However, the last fourth or so of the book I began to despise him. He seemed to give up, like he’d almost reached some sort of epiphany about life or something, and then he just said, “Whatever” and walked away. I didn’t really understand what happened near the end. It all just sort of fell apart.

Writing

Everything in this book was from Titus’ first-person perspective, which is really difficult at times, because that means that the book has to be written roughly how the character talks. In this case, everybody in Feed used a unique jargon. Every sentence was splattered with slang. In most books, this is OK because you figure out the basic idea of what the words mean but, in this case, I really ended up just skipping over certain words. A couple of words I’d think I got and then they’d be used in a different context. It’s not that you can’t understand what anyone’s saying, it’s just that sometimes you have to think. There are also lots of random question marks, sentence fragments, and loss of description, because as a flighty teenager Titus probably isn’t paying attention to that much. There are also a ton of swears.

I’m going to give a 4/5. This type of writing was necessary to the story. It really helped it and wouldn’t have been as good without it. However, it was still difficult to ignore and at times distracting.

Plot

Nothing incredibly surprising happens. In fact, there’s not that much of a plot at all. It’s one of those stories that just traces someone’s day-to-day life, so plots are difficult to work in. There is a Violet arc, but not much else really changes. This doesn’t detract from the book, though, so I’m going to give 4/5.

Character Depth/Development

Another hard one. None of the characters are especially deep. If they were, that would sort of defeat the purpose. Violet has some depth, but I think it’s hard for Titus to notice these things. None of the characters develop, either, except for Violet—a little, although it’s mostly that more and more of her personality and history is revealed throughout the book—and Titus, but he sort of goes into relapse. I think 3/5.

Je Ne C’est Quois

This isn’t a world you’d really want to live in—a world where everything belongs to the rich and if they can’t map you, they don’t want you, and if they (the corporations) don’t want you, that’s it. That’s it. It’s a world of dreams, but sometimes dreams aren’t enough. If your birthday came every day, it wouldn’t be special anymore.

As the feed tells Titus,

“…First, in the deserts and veldts arose oral culture….

But we have entered a new age. We are a new people. It is now the age of oneiric culture, the culture of dreams.

And we are the nation of dreams. We are seers. We are wizards. We speak in visions. Our letters are like flocks of doves, released from under our hats. We have only to stretch out our hand and desire, and what we wish for settles like a kerchief in our palm. We are a race of sorcerers, enchanters. We are Atlantis. We are the wizard-isle of Mu.

What we wish for, is ours.”

Nevertheless, there is something about this book. Its deep sadness. Its many layers. It isn’t so much the world, or the characters. It’s that you’ve grasped the edge of something, and you don’t want to let it go. 4/5.

Seeing all of these “meh” ratings might make you wonder, Okay, so why did she like this book? Firstly, it’s funny. For example, Titus’ brother’s name is not mentioned once throughout the entire book. When forced to refer to him, Titus calls him “Smell Factor.” The closest you get to seeing his brother’s name is when Titus’ dad says, “Your brother has a name,” and a scene when Violet is over for dinner: “[Titus’ brother singing loudly]

‘Smell Factor!’ [said Titus]

‘That’s not his name,’ said my mother.

[Titus’ brother singing loudly]

‘Hey!’ yelled my mother. ‘Hey, you! We don’t sing at the table!'”

But it’s not just funny. It’s an obscenely charicatured image of society as it is today. It is usbut more. That’s what Feed is about—life, but more. Stuff, but more. All the suppliers want to do is sell, and all the consumers want to do is buy, and meanwhile, suburbs are disappearing, America has annexed the moon, the Global Alliance is declaring war on us, the forests have been cut down for air factories, and the moon completely sucks. And the truffle is totally undervalued.

It’s also just so ridiculously stupid—the feed tells Titus, “It’s dance. It’s dance, dance, dance. That’s fun. Fun’s fun, and fun’s what you can have…” “…craziest prime-time comedy yet. What happens when two normal guys and two normal girls meet in their favorite health-food restaurant? Lots of ABnormal laughs, served with sprouts on the side, is what!”, and his brother watches a show called Top Quark“Cap’n Top Quark, that whole planet is so sad that I think they’ll need a whole lot of good thoughts and hugging!

That’s why, lickety-split, we’re on our way. Charm Quark, prepare the Friend Cannon. Boson, turn out biggest, orangest sails toward Cryos, on the planet Sadalia.

Aye, aye, sir! You’ve made me one happy particle, sir!”

“Yeah, we’ll sing a song for you! It’s a happy, zappy song, full of chuckles and chortles.”

Words like “um,” “like,” and “thing” are grossly overused. The President says “um” in most of his speeches that Titus (unintentionally) hears. The adults use the same level of “stupid language”—unprofessional sounding words such as the ones previously mentioned—and this perfectly captures what the book is trying to say. Nobody can really read, because there’s no point; nobody writes. Everybody rich enough lives in a bubble—literally—where he can control the weather and the season and the time of day. Nothing is real in Feed: not the Earth; not life (people are conceived in conceptionariums and designed by their parents); not the pretense of government; not society’s view of itself; not even the clouds. Is it better to be free or to be fake?

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