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Feed Hardcover – September 23, 2002
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A brilliant new satire from the author of BURGER WUSS
For Titus and his friends, it started out like any ordinary trip to the moon - a chance to party during spring break and play around 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 knows something about what itâs like to live without the feed-and about resisting 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 brave new world - and a hilarious new lingo - sure to appeal to anyone who appreciates smart satire, futuristic fiction laced with humor, or any story featuring skin lesions as a fashion statement.
Identity crises, consumerism, and star-crossed teenage love in a futuristic society where people connect to the Internet via feeds implanted in their brains.
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At the lounge, the narrative voice continues to be rambly in a teenage way, as if the book were written by a teenager. You know how children tend to go on and on without quite managing to structure their story? You know how most teenagers still need to work on their structure? Have you ever attempted to read the average teenage blog post, the sort that shows a need to pay more attention to the use of commas, the sort with run-on sentences without a clear focus, the sort that makes you despair for the state of education today?
If you enjoy that sort of thing, or if you can appreciate teenage slang (of the future, not of today), you'll enjoy this book. If you don't like that sort of thing, or if you prefer your fictional characters to show a modicum of education, this book will drive you absolutely nuts. While I applaud the attempt to connect with the intended audience (indeed, I'm hoping this was intentional, because if it was unintentionally bad somehow the book feels even worse), there's a limit to how much badly-written storytelling I can stand.
Dropped for terrible narrative voice. I see a lot of 4- and 5-star ratings for this book, but I just can't stay with it long enough to see why the book gets those ratings.
First off, the good bits:
1.) The premise is amazing. Implanted "feeds" seem a plausible occurrence in the future, and the use of "mal" as a druglike fix was clever. The reading style was upbeat and fun and showed how language was adapted to make room for the feed. The novel seemed like a Facebook and diary fused together - very cool. (Especially when this was a 2004 book, before the main social media boom). The influx of online shopping and lessening social interaction was impressive, especially the parts where people would just phase out into their feed.
2.) The idea that people without feeds hits upon a reality that exists today. Social Media is so integrated to our society today that people without at least one profile on a major social network site have difficult times - jobs check FB, even my classes are starting to use it in their plans.
3.) The slang is both good and bad. The use of "unit" falling along the same lines of "you" was interesting, and the use of other slang was realistic and easy to pick up on as one read the book.
1.) The slang works against the book. All the adults use the same slang save for Violet's father, and that brought me out of the book. Even in an internet age adults will speak differently from kids. The teens and kids would have their own slang that the parents aren't aware of. If the author had given the main character's group extra slang it might have gone easier, or if the adult's slang had a feeling of forcedness to try to keep up with the teens it would have been more believable. As it was the slang read as a teen's dialogue.
2.) Titus never undergoes a character arc. He's essentially the same from the start to the end, save for a guilty conscience. He doesn't change his mind at the end, he simply babbles and doesn't absorb the information he describes to Violet. It's the same to him as reading a book, not learning a new topic.
3.) Without a Titus character arc, the ending feels as if a few chapters are missing from the novel. While having the feed disrupt bodily functions was an effective idea, if we connected with Titus then it fell flat. More of the feeling of "aww" than sorrow.
4.) Themes of dystopia should have been more in-depth.
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Verdict: Read it, it's fairly good. Recommended as a library loan.
“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” This opening sentence sets the supercilious tone, signals the idiomatic language Anderson employs throughout, and introduces Titus, the teenage narrator. It’s a brilliant lead.
Feed tells the tale of Titus and his friends, six teenagers who hang out and party together. Like a majority of their fellow citizens—those who can afford the cost—they access all their news, advertising, education, games, “m-chat,” and money through implants in their brains—not just embedded chips but multipurpose devices that are fully integrated into their nervous systems. Theirs is a world of constant distractions. Fashions may change by the hour. (“Quendy and Loga went off to the bathroom because hairstyles had changed.”) A powerful future version of Virtual Reality allows them to experience novelty and excitement at any time without special equipment—and without pausing for reflection. (One presentation is “based on the true story of a clone fighting to save her own liver from the cruel and ruthless original who’s farming her for organs.”) This is a world you and I would not want to live in, yet there’s much, much more to make life little worth living.
Corporations are the dominant force on the planet. Climate change, pollution, and overfishing have killed the oceans. Past wars have left a blanket of radioactive dust all across the surface. Human settlements on Earth exist underground under domes to shield people from the intolerable heat and unbreatheable atmosphere. Massive numbers have migrated off-planet to Mars, the moons of Jupiter, and nearby star systems. This is truly a dystopian society.
The Feed of the title is the experience generated by the implants in people’s brains. As Titus notes, “the braggest thing about the feed, the thing that made it really big, is that it knows everything you want and hope for, sometimes before you even know what those things are. . . [A]ll you have to do is want something and there’s a chance it will be yours.” Those wants and hopes are manifested through personalized sales pitches that constantly bombard the teenagers’ consciousness. If they have any purpose in life, it is to consume indiscriminately in a constant search for novelty and acceptance by their friends.
To compound the misery, one’s feed can be hacked by a shadowy entity called the Coalition of Pity. Titus and his friends fall victim to such an attack. While they resume their lives unchanged after brief hospitalization, Titus’ new girlfriend, Violet, learns that her life is in danger as a result. She is unable to recover completely.
The language has degraded to the colloquial dialect that is spoken by Titus and his friends, but it’s not limited to the young: their parents speak the same way. There is no public education. Now, children attend SchoolTM, the corporations’ for-profit answer to public schools, which clearly doesn’t teach much at all. “Everyone is supersmart now,” Titus reports. “You can look things up automatic, like science and history, like if you want to know which battles of the Civil War George Washington fought in and sh*t.” When Violet asks Titus whether he can read, he responds, “A little. I kind of protested it in SchoolTM. On the grounds that the silent ‘E’ is stupid.”
About the author
M. T. Anderson (Matthew Tobin Anderson) is an L.A.-based author of both science fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults. Feed won the 2002 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was a finalist for the 2002 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. In 2006, Anderson won the National Book Award in that category for The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Volume 1: The Pox Party. He has written 14 books to date.