Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review: Feed by M.T. Anderson

Book: Feed
By: M.T. Anderson
Published: September 23, 2002
Published by: Candlewick Press

Description: Identity crises, consumerism, and star-crossed teenage love in a futuristic society where people connect to the Internet via feeds implanted in their brains.

For Titus and his friends, it started out like any ordinary trip to the moon - a chance to party during spring break and play with some stupid low-grav at the Ricochet Lounge. But that was before the crazy hacker caused all their feeds to malfunction, sending them to the hospital to lie around with nothing inside their heads for days. And it was before Titus met Violet, a beautiful, brainy teenage girl who has decided to fight the feed and its omnipresent ability to categorize human thoughts and desires. Following in the footsteps of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world — and a smart, savage satire that has captivated readers with its view of an imagined future that veers unnervingly close to the here and now

My Thoughts: Feed is a book that borders dangerously close to what could happen if America continues to progress technologically and continues to be the "superpower" it is today. It's slightly frightening but also interesting. It's everything that's going on now, but to the extreme and with a few things added here and there. I'm glad I picked up this audiobook from the library.

In society at this time, there are these things called Feeds implanted in people's brains. The Feed is basically a computer, telephone, and television all in one that projects things into your brain/body. You watch shows without moving a muscle, can chat internally with your friends, and can look up anything and everything right on the spot. Everyone's smart, and no one is. It controls everything you do. It cures headaches you may have, can direct you or your "up-car" (flying car) to a destination, controls your bodily functions, everything. The best way I can hope to explain this world is perhaps by showing you this quote:
“I don't know when they first had feeds. Like maybe, fifty or a hundred years ago. Before that, they had to use their hands and their eyes. Computers were all outside the body. They carried them around outside of them, in their hands, like if you carried your lungs in a briefcase and opened it to breathe.”
That's how big the feed is in this world, and as in any dystopian, we eventually learn the atrocities this type of development can create.

In Feed, we follow Titus, a young well-to-do boy on his way to the moon for spring break. He's going with his friends and they're planning on having a totally "brag" time. They get there and realize the moon sucks these days but decide to have fun at the clubs and stuff. Before one trip to the club, Titus meets Violet. Violet seems to ooze sex appeal in Titus's mind and he really wants to get to know her. She seems really smart and exciting, and not at all like anyone he's used to. He decides he should probably make her his girlfriend on this trip, maybe have a little fun. Titus, Violet, and his friends then go out to the Ricochet lounge to play around in the low-grav when this hacker guy shows up and causes their feeds to malfunction. As the police arrive, their feeds are disabled and they are taken to the hospital for several days. During these days, Titus and Violet get closer but we also really see how big a part of everyones lives the feed really is. They don't really know how spend time doing nothing with nothing in their heads. They begin to feel lonely and are really pretty stupid. (Everyone except Violet of course) They don't know how to write. They don't really know how to verbally talk to each other, and definitely don't know how to form full sentences. The sentences are kind of summarized like, "Went to the store, da da da, saw the guy, da da da, he kissed me, da da da, epic romance, da da da" It's actually a bit ridiculous. Soon though, their feeds get turned on and everything goes back to (semi) normal. Everyone except Titus and Violet seem to be normal. It's like, the traumatic experience they had on the moon didn't occur. Only, it did. Soon, we realize Violet's feed didn't come back correctly. Somethings happening to Violet. Titus doesn't seem to understand why, he doesn't seem to know what to do, he doesn't even seem to know how to care. Violet's losing the ability to function properly, she's starting to shut down, and Titus doesn't understand why she keeps bringing him down, can't figure out how to bring her up, nor how to try to be there for her, nor why he should even try to be there for her. He wants to have fun, not think of bad stuff, and from there we learn what's really wrong with the world.

Feed was very interesting. Society/America has developed to a point where there are no longer any plants left on the planet. Clean Air factories produce the air we breathe. Every single thing we eat, use, and wear is made from processed items. There are Fillet Mignon Farms where Fillet Mignon is made. People wear lots of plastic clothes, and plates, tables, and almost everything is disposable. The Feed projects the news, TV shows, and everything into your brain, including tons of commercials and ads and banners. You see someone in a skirt you like and instantly the feed pulls up the skirt with the price so you can buy it and get it shipped to your house within the hour. Much like how Amazon can figure out things you may want before you really know you want it, the feed categorizes everyone so that they can come up with things you may want to buy or listen to or see. Everyone is placed in these neat little categories based on their bookmarks and likes and dislikes. Check out this quote:
“…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.”
The feed tells you what you want, may want, and gotta have. It seems almost unreal.

Earth has branched out and been able to start settlements on other planets like Mars and the Moons of Jupiter, and Venus (unlikely in real life, but still interesting to read about.) Life is about Fun, there's not much thinking. If you don't know what that word means, your feed'll tell you. The feed gives you all the hip new words and all the hip new hairstyles and fashions. Everything though, is owned by corporations. School is School Inc. where you learn how to be a good consumer and how to market things and all that. The feed is controlled by big corporations. The issue comes though when you ask yourself, if everyone in America is on the feed and spending life having a totally "brag time" and not caring about anything other than our own instant satisfaction and going "mal" (basically going to like a malware site that gives you a feeling of like being high on drugs or something), then who is providing the tons and tons of products we buy, who's working to the bone to get everything to us? How are we enforcing it? Who's voting? Do we even still live in a democracy? Additionally, why are people beginning to get lesions on their bodies, and losing muscle and skin and hair? What the hell is going on, and why does no one seem to care?

This book is crazy. It's written in a teen, hippie, chatty, somewhat simplified style language that's not at all as horrible as you may think it is. It helps to understand how far society has fallen in its attempt to move forward. It's not one of those books where the main character attempts all these big feats and "sticks it to the man." Big issues aren't solved. It is one of those books though that tells you the dangers of progressing too far and losing everything that makes us human. Everyone wants their heart's desires. They want to live in their dream world, but someday, you have to open your eyes from your dream world, and see the real world for what it really is. You can't have everything.

This has been a long review, but I promise I'm almost done. As you can see by this quote that I'm including only because I thought it was hilarious,
“…what the President meant in the intercepted chat. This was, uh, nothing but a routine translation problem. It has to be understood, that…It has to be understood that when the President referred to the Prime Minister of the Global Alliance as a ‘big sh*thead,’ what he was trying to convey was, uh—this is an American idiom used to praise people, by referring to the sheer fertilizing power of their thoughts. The President meant to say that the Prime Minister’s head was fertile, just full of these nutrients where ideas can grow. It really was a compliment…”
Most of the society has gotten, well, basic and unfocused, and stupid. There was quite a bit of cursing in this book, "drug" use and did make me tear up a bit at the end. The main character annoyed me a bit, but almost every character did due to the general nature of the feed and the way it made people react. Violet seemed to be the best character, but even she was affected by the "strangeness" of her personality and her feelings about the feed and so sometimes I was annoyed at her passiveness and vulnerability.

I loved Feed. It made me think a lot about where we are as a society and where we're going.  I would suggest it to everyone who loved dystopians but want a bit of the unreal at the same time. Oh, and the audiobook is pretty amazing. I'd suggest listening to it in audio format. It includes sections that make you really understand how the feed really is, inserting ad's at the end of chapters and all that. It really made me feel connected. My rating is 4.5 Stars.


Sue Bursztynski said...

Goodness, it's been a while since I read this! I agree, it's very good, and makes some telling points. I ave to pick and choose the readers at my school to whom I offer it, though; it's not for the girl who reads paranormal romance or the boy whose main reading is boom, crash,thud adventures.

Anonymous said...

This was a long review, but it was also a great review. I really feel compelled to go out buy this book and read it. I love books like this, they blow your mind open with these far-out-there ideas about what could happen in the future if we don't change our course. At first you think, this is crazy and it wouldn't happen in my life time, if ever. Then, you really think about it and honestly, the way things are now aren't too far off. Yeah all the technology and casual trips to Mars may seem "out there", but the way these corporations have over these characters; I'm telling you it’s already very real. And honestly it's really creepy and tragic at the same time. I use to feel like stuff like this really couldn’t happen in my life time, but now I'm not sure anymore. I would not be surprised if before I die, there won't be an "i" in fort of everything necessary for us to survive and/or enjoy lives. What is this world coming too…


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