I read the YA novel Feed by M.T. Anderson with my new informal IRL reading group.
About the Book:
I usually write my own summaries, but I really like the one from the back of the book, so I’m going to use it:
“‘We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.’
So says Titus, a teenager whose ability to read, write, and even think for himself has been almost completely obliterated by his ‘feed,’ a transmitter implanted directly into his brain. Feeds are a crucial part of life for Titus and his friends. After all, how else would they know where to party on the moon, how to get bargains at Weatherbee & Crotch, or how to accessorize the mysterious lesions everyone’s been getting? But then Titus meets Violet, a girl who cares about what’s happening to the world and challenges everything Titus and his friends hold dear.”
Feed is just the sort of novel I enjoy. It features a unique narrator, adopts well re-imagined slang, and presents issues that are both fascinating to consider and interesting to follow. It didn’t take me long to read, but for such a quick book, Feed packs a big punch.
When I started reading Feed, I had difficulty imagining the world in which it takes place. People go to the moon for the weekend, drive flying cars, and live in vertical subdivisions under individual climate domes. It’s also a world where the media and consumerism drive every aspect of life. Ads are constantly delivered via the feed and tailored to people based on what they search for and buy. People suddenly go blank mid-conversation while they chat virtually with friends in their heads. Even School (TM) and Clouds (TM) have gone corporate. The physical world felt unrealistic and distant, but the feed felt far too familiar and real. I struggled to settle these two dissonant components down into the same story.
The more I pondered these elements, though, the more their juxtaposition began to make sense. It’s pretty clear Anderson’s interest lies with the feed, not with the fancy-schmancy futuristic world. What better way to highlight something so dangerously imminent than to surround it with improbable things, so that readers can’t help but see it in stark contrast to all the science fiction around it? The focus of the book is unmistakable, I think, precisely because what we can imagine stands out against what we cannot.
What I liked most about Feed was how Anderson is unafraid to look critically at the direction our current information culture is going. He isn’t afraid to ask questions: is access to information all the time a good thing? Who controls the information we see and watches what we seek, and to what extent can they then influence our lives? What might terrorism and medicine look like in a society like Titus’s? What happens to those who hang back, hesitant to jump on the newest technology bandwagon to roll through town? And what happens to the individual person in the information deluge?
Overall, Feed gave me plenty to think about and my group plenty to discuss. It’s a quick read, once you get used to the way Titus speaks, but not one you’ll soon forget. In closing, I’ll leave you with a thought from the author interview at the end of my copy:
“I think we all have, at this point, a direct connection to the media in our brains. It’s impossible for us to think of our life without conceiving of it in images that are taken from movies, from songs, from ads, all of which are images that are challenging us to be better consumers rather than better people.” (M.T. Anderson, Feed, p. 306)