Something on which to FEED (by MT Anderson)

Feed by M.T. Anderson. Candlewick, 2004.

In this futuristic novel by acclaimed M.T. Anderson, a stream of information virtually identical to the Internet (including banner ads) is accessed through a direct implant in the brain. This feed is integrated with the limbic system; it can read an individual’s desires, tastes and pleasures so suggested products will be sure to satisfy. Of course, nothing ever fully satisfies, since there is always more to buy, as the corporations (who run the feed, and the schools, and the government to a large degree) ensure. And if one person’s feed fails, his or her brain may fail as well.

All at once hysterical, sarcastic, poignant, this book eclipsed mere story and became social commentary. It’s about a young man’s coming into awareness of the feed’s hold, and his struggle against that hold due to a romantic relationship with a very non-traditional girl—one who resists the feed, and is in danger of being destroyed by it.

Some items of note:

Worldbuilding: “It was at least good to get out of the hotel, because most of the rest of the city had pretty good artificial gravity, so if you dropped things, at least they fuckin’ fell. It was almost like normal, which is how I like it” (8). Here Anderson’s worldbuilding comes into the spotlight; he weaves details of his universe perfectly into the narrative. Every sentence is in voice, every fact giving insight into character. Even the first line, “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck,” shows that it’s still our own world—they went to the moon for Spring Break—but it’s very much different.

Unit! The moon for spring break!

Characterization: The protagonist Titus - here’s a guy who has a bad attitude, but because he’s surrounded by total boneheads and has this deep, creative way of viewing the world, he’s sympathetic. He’s with friends, but isolated, misunderstood. Who hasn’t felt that way? So even when he’s a prat and we hate it, Anderson makes us understand him, so we sympathize. He feels things too deeply, yet he doesn’t have anyone in his life who has shown him how to express these depths because everyone around him is basically a bonehead. This makes all the difference.

Without a doubt a fabulous, challenging story. Of all M.T. Anderson’s works (of which I’ve read almost all), Feed could easily be my favorite.