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3.9 out of 5 stars
Feed
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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful
M. T. Anderson has written a refreshing science fiction novel in a genre that has recently relied largely on fantasy and far less on science. He has created a not-to-distant future world where everything is accessed via a "feed" that is implanted directly into the brain. An internalized internet, the feed even allows for "chatting" so there is little need to speak if one chooses not to and true reading is nearly obsolete.
While the narrator, Titus, lives in a world that is still identifiable to those of us in the 21st century - school (although it is trademarked), parties, music, driving, dancing, and drinking - there are also unfamiliar and extreme aspects like an electronic drug substitute, standardized lingo, disposable tables, and extreme consumerism. Even this tightly controlled future however, is peppered with resisters, and Titus' own girlfriend suffers horribly from her feed when it malfunctions due to a combination of having it implanted late in life (when she was 7) and being hit by a "hacker".
Perhaps because it is a young adult novel, Anderson just barely skims the surface of the economic, political and environmental tensions of the feed and its consumer culture. He does not, however, wimp out in building believable, dimensional characters and relationships.
Anderson has created an intriguing read about a world that is so close you may be reading about the first "feed" in the newspaper tomorrow.
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2003
Imagine instant-messaging your friends in your mind. Imagine all those obnoxious computer pop-up ads happening right in your brain. Imagine retailers knowing precisely what you've ever bought, your favorite color, your shoe size. Imagine liking it. This is the scary, weird world described in M.T. Anderson's "Feed". Titus and his friends are average middle-class American teenagers of the future. They take for granted the weird convergence of technology, corporate intervention, and mind-control they live with known as a feed. Enter Violet; a girl Titus meets on spring break, a girl who wants to 'fight the feed'.
There are important and compelling issues raised in this novel about advertising, privacy, conformity, individualism and technology. It's a book that demands discussion, explanation and consideration. Unfortunately, I think that much of it may be over the heads of its teenaged target audience. Readers who need things spelled out may be challenged by this book because significant aspects of the setting (and what a grim future it is) are implied, or only mentioned in passing. I think few teenagers will be satisfied with the ending. And fewer still will probably spend much time thinking about the issues in the story after they've put it down. It's too bad that the profanity and few mild references to sexual situations will keep this book out of most classrooms, because it's really a story that deserves to be discussed, especially by young adults.
I do recommend this book for advanced and thoughtful teen readers. Sci-fi fans in particular will enjoy it. Other readers should appreciate the accurate portrayal of teen dating, cliques, jealousies, insecurities and friendships. I hope the larger, more important themes of the book will be grasped as well.
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102 of 123 people found the following review helpful
I was enlisted earlier this year by a college professor to share my expertise with her online children's literature class. Two weeks ago, just before I left for BookExpo, one of the students asked me:
"It seems that you like reading very much, maybe you can share with us why do you enjoy it so much? I really would like to know."
The beginning of my response was:
"A great book can take me off to a different world or bring me closer to this one. Frequently a great book will grab me by the throat and slam me against the wall..."
FEED, the latest book by M.T. Anderson, did all of those things to me--and more. In fact, at the moment it feels as if my nose is pulverized and askew and that the skin covering my shoulder blades scraped away when I slid down that wall and landed hard on my bottom.
I woke up long before dawn--from a mildly bad dream related to a part of the story I read last night--and quietly slipped out to my desk to finish the rest of the book.
FEED is a dark, futuristic satire. It's a tale both intense and extreme that pokes fun at our disposible, consumeristic society, at our communications revolution, at the increasing role of corporations in our education systems, and at the diminished vocabulary skills among those people who consistantly resort to a particular four-letter word as the adjective of choice in any given situation.
You may not enjoy reading a book that spews like a rapper or slams into you as if you've taken a left turn into a mosh pit, but the profound messages in FEED clearly make it the cautionary tale of the year.
The story begins on the Moon, where Titus and his friends have gone for spring break. He and his buddies all have Feed, which is an online computer implant typically installed shortly after birth. Feed constantly bombards the characters with information and banners, much of which has to do with the latest fashions, upcars, and music. It also provides them with Chat--the capacity to mentally instant message each other.
"...I was playing with the magnets on my boots and trying not to look at her. I didn't want her to feel my eyes before I made my move. I was careful. Quendy and Loga went off to the bathroom because hairstyles had changed.
Marty drifted around and made slit-eyes at Link. Link and I were chatting about the girl, like I was going,She is meg youch,and he was going, What the hell's she wearing?, and I was going, Wool. It's wool. Like from an animal,and then Calista did her own chat to us, which was,If you want to hear about an animal, what about two guys staring with their mouths wide open so they look completely Cro-Magnon?..."
So Titus gets to meet the girl, Violet, but shortly thereafter they and most of his friends have their Feeds hacked by a wild old white-haired guy on the dance floor...
This vision of our future planet is one you don't want to miss. I've never seen or read the original story of Titus (Andronicus--Shakespeare tragedy), but its characterization as symbolization of "the essential absurdity of modern life" certainly fits Anderson's frightening tale of corporate power and a used-up planet. Pass up reading this one at your own risk.
Richie Partington...
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2002
This is a not-to-be-missed look at a not too distant future, where technology has been taken to the next degree. Implanted in the brain when a child is just an infant is the Feed, a link to an on-line world with instantaneous hype.
Take a trip to the moon, and the Feed automatically clues you in to where the "in" places are to go. The Feed knows your buying preferences, your entertainment preferences, how to plug the latest fashion to fill your every want and it knows how to generate your next "need". This is consumerism on steriods.
And, speaking of steroids, there is a trip to the tissue farm, where filet mignon is growing in the fields.
The dialog is so real; the consumerism is so possible; the degradation of the global environment is so near. This book paints a picture of a world that is truly more frightening than horror stories.
All of this is ingeniously included in a boy meets girl story of seemingly normal adolescence.
Scariest of all: it seems almost inevitable.
An outstanding effort by M. T. Anderson.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 20, 2004
I'd heard good things about this book, so I was willing to give it a try even though I was less than impressed with the same author's vampire novel, Thirsty.
Feed, however, deserved all its buzz, plus more. This book is a piece of brilliance. In this dystopian novel, you'll hear echoes of Holden Caulfield, as well as bits of Minority Report and language worthy of writers like Douglas Coupland and Francesca Lia Block, but M.T. Anderson still creates a world that is at once unique and frighteningly familiar.
The invented slang and the culture from which it has sprung are pitch-perfect, and the tone of the writing rides a fine line between absurdly funny and darkly horrifying. The futuristic world described in the book is exhausting, sickening, ridiculous, seductive and brokenly beautiful. The fact that it is, more or less, the world we live in today, makes this the most terrifying book I've read since Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale."
This book is for people who like to think and who are willing to examine their lives. Such people -- no matter how young they are -- will be able to handle the occasional curse word that pops up in the book.
I couldn't put this book down. It's a fast read, and worth rereading. I felt the ending was a little "light" and disappointing, but the ride that gets you there is unique and unforgettable.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2002
M.T. Anderson has created a dystopian future on par with Huxley's Brave New World. The book imagines a future that under the surface is not too far from what is going on today. It's a great commentary on consumer culture, and a slightly scary view of where we could be headed. It gives you a lot to think about.
I'm a kid's bookseller and I do not hesitate to reccomend this book.
I'm a geek for M. T. Anderson. He's an amazingly versatile writer who has become one of my favorites.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I give books a certain amount of credit if, after reading them, I find myself unduly influenced by their message in my daily life. Take "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" for example. Read that book through and then try to watch a pageant on your own without remembering the book's fantastically written scenes. Good writing engenders creative thinking. So a large amount of cred should fall on M.T. Anderson's "Feed". Though it admittedly has a number of strikes against it, I challenge you to walk around a mall or watch television after reading every word of this beautifully thought out book cover to cover. If you don't, consequently, find yourself trapped in the eerie uber-consumerism of this modern day and age, then obviously you were only skimming this clever little novella. And I wouldn't be able to blame you. Anderson has undertaken a very difficult task. First of all, this kind of message has (to some extent) been done to death. Yes yes yes, the world is full of too much advertising and consumerism. Yes yes, it's bad. We know. Thank you. Second, he has placed his book in the future and has invented a kind of futuristic slang that, while interesting and consistent (Mr. Anderson never errs or disobeys his own rules) is nonetheless difficult to get into. Some readers are going to have difficulties dealing with people calling one another "unit" (an upgrade on our currently popular "dude") or saying things are "meg" this and "meg" that. It is meg annoying at first (see?), but keep at it. Read on and this brave little new world becomes incredibly interesting. Here, humans that can afford it are wired directly to the internet. Forget having the web on the brain. Now the web is IN your brain, controlling the human body's daily functions and activities.
Today, teens hungry for futuristic sci-fi can have their fill with such titles as "Jennifer Government", but I give this book, in particular, a lot more credit. The author takes this world to its obvious extreme, making a girl who is a poor consumer into a victim of corporate medical care (or in this case, poor tech support). More importantly, the author never loses sight of certain facts. Our hero is undoubtedly rich and his moneyed family allows him a greater amount of leeway with things like school trips and purchases. His poorer girlfriend suffers from living in a world where consumerism has been literally wired to the brain. It is this character that will readily point out that many Americans do not have access to "the feed", their name for the internal internet link. The poor are always with us. They just don't advertise their existence particularly well. This book is basically the adventures of a very average joe schmoe who doesn't really care for international strife (of which there is quite a lot) or anything particularly unpleasant (his girlfriend's physical collapse being an excellent example). And how different is this charming young man from most Americans today? His is a world where the feed, in Homer Simpson's words, "Isn't afraid to tell the truth. That everything's just fine". Parents please note, this book is chock full of swearing. If that bothers you, fine. But if it doesn't, I commend you. The book will make anyone reading it think. For that reason alone, I recommend it to anyone and everyone.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2002
Reading this work shed some light on the way popular culture is heading. Titus, the narrator, shares his experiences in first-person--complete with the language today's young generation uses. His world is strongly influenced by the feed, a neural-based network of ads and other applications traditionally associated with the Internet. Told in a cynical and indifferent way so common with today's youth, Feed reveals the dangers of living a shallow life centered around the individual. The result is a sense of suspicion as technology further enables companies to solicit their wares or services.
I recommend this reading to high school students everywhere.
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36 of 46 people found the following review helpful
In this cautionary book, YA (Young Adult) author Anderson takes a familiar element of cyberpunk fiction and applies it to American teenage culture in the far future. In this vision of "wetware", brains can be directly wired to the internet, creating a streaming"feed" of audio, video, and text that operates as a kind of second level of consciousness. People can mentally IM each other across the room, and as their brains process what they see, they are bombarded with targeted advertising. We are introduced to this future via narrator Titus and his cohort of friends. They are archetypes of vapid teens, blindly following the latest fashion trends (and in this ultra-wired world, girls change hairstyles by the hour), purchasing the latest clothing off the feed, getting wasted at semi-legal "malware" brain-scrambler sites, and generally ignoring anything beyond their immediate superficial concerns.

When the group goes to the moon (kind of a mix of Las Vegas and Daytona Beach) for spring break, they encounter the dark side of the feed -- the possibility of getting hacked (since the feed is wired directly to their brain, this can have calamitous effects). Titus also meets and befriends Violet, a home-schooled girl who takes a shine to him and wants to join his circle of friends. It's not really clear why a girl as smart and allegedly beautiful as Violet would be interested in the nice, but not particularly bright or introspective Titus, but their relationship becomes the basis for Anderson's rather obvious anti-consumerist message. Violet is the bright alternachick who'd figured out that the feed's main purpose is to get people to buy stuff, while Titus is the nice, but not too deep dude who just wants to get along and have a good time. His inability to accept her inconvenient truth plays out plausibly, as Anderson wisely avoids any cheesy moments of realization or transformation. But this is undercut but all the characters' two-dimensionality and the story's overall lack of nuance.

There's a running background story about unrest around the world resulting from America's massive consumption, and some unexplained lesions that are appearing on everyone's skin, but Violet is the only one paying attention as the group does the standard teenage stuff. The book does a very convincing job of sketching the lives of future teens, with particular attention to language (for example, instead of saying "Dude!", people say "Unit!"). Chapters end with blasts of the feed, giving a keen sense of the barrage of marketing directed at the characters. Unfortunately, the teens who are most likely to read a dystopian semi-cyberpunky novel about the dangers of capitalism and consumerism are the ones least likely to need to hear the message.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2003
Going online to Amazon -- which, of course, tracked my previous purchases and suggested things that, yeah, I really *would* be interested in buying -- became a creepier experience than usual after reading this book. Anderson does what the best writers of dystopian fiction do: he takes elements of our world and distorts them only slightly; we recognize ourselves and where we're headed and see that our feet are already on the path. A sharp attack on the mindless purchasing of everything, Anderson's novel makes you want to unplug yourselves from your own Feed -- the television, the Internet, Ebay -- and go anywhere EXCEPT a mall. Frightening and chilling.
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