March Book Madness: Feed

Feed (2002), M. T. Anderson

This is part of my March Book Madness series, which mostly includes student work. Periodically, I am going to include my own book reviews, too. Today is one of those days.

It’s not often that I admit that I don’t know what to make of a book. But here, with Feed by MT Anderson, I am not sure now if I liked it or not. I had heard great things about it, and I wanted to like this tale of the future world, but there was something about the writing and the characters that kept jarring me as a reader. I almost abandoned the thing at least twice. But I couldn’t. Something kept drawing me back.

The story is set in the future, where people have “feeds” installed in their minds (sort of like an internalized RSS built around interests and likes, and run by commercial entities. Imagine lots of spam cramming into your head along with important information. That would be your feed.) People “chat” each other up; get hacked into by others; go “mal” by messing with their feeds; and are connected to some internalized network of information flows.

It’s a chilling prospect, as Anderson imagines it, and the plot centers around two teenagers — one (Titus) who takes the life of the feed for granted and the other (Violet), who is slowly dying from it and wants to see life for what it is.

Anderson’s skewering of corporate America, and our increasing dependence on technology for information, is bitingly satiric. That’s what kept me coming back, I think. During the reading of the novel (which I read in class during our silent reading — this is not a book for middle school kids, by the way), I also remember reading articles in Time Magazine that seemed to echo in reality the world that Anderson had created. I can’t recall now the articles, but they sort of jolted me. Here were hints of things to come around information technology that could (only could, not will) lead to the kind of world that Anderson envisions. (Gosh, I wish I could remember the articles.)

What I didn’t like was Anderson’s stilted writing, and I never really connected with the characters. I wanted to. I kept waiting to feel some emotional response to their plight of living in this world, and trying to make sense of it all. I just couldn’t do it. It’s very possible that that distance was Anderson’s design all along — to show how technology removes us from each other. I was so removed, I felt like removing the book.

What I did find interesting is all of the invented language that Anderson uses here, as the kids talk in future slang influenced by products and commercialization. When one character gets a verbal tattoo from Nike, and begins injecting the word “Nike” into everything he says, I wondered how far off that might be. (far, far off, I hope).

Peace (without the need for feed),
Kevin

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One Comment
  1. Thanks for your refreshingly honest appraisal of this book. I sometimes question my own judgment when I don’t like a book that others have recommended–or worse yet, was written by an award-winning author.

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