Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: Feed

Originally published on July 14, 2012.

My 29th book of 2012 was Feed by M.T. Anderson. I read it in June, actually starting it while I was in the hospital having Aiden and finishing it up later that week (during some of my many sleepless nights). This book came highly recommended by many of my former students at University High School, and it's also a National Book Award Finalist.

Feed takes place sometime in the unspecified future. The vast majority of people have a "feed" implanted in their brains during infancy and are therefore connected to an unending stream of information for their entire lives. Major corporations dominate both the feed and the educational system, so everyone is constantly inundated by advertisements and marketing. In turn, this leads to extreme materialism. People constantly order new goods over their feeds, and with fashions changing every few days (or hours), consumerism is overwhelming. People can chat with each other over their feeds, making actual out-loud conversation unnecessary. Parties often involve everyone watching the same program on their own feeds, following ads to check out new products, or everyone dancing to their own music, which only they can hear over their feed. No one actually needs to learn to read or write, as everything can be sent over the feeds, which have audio. Actual learning is unnecessary as well, as all information can be accessed on the feed any time, so what's the point in knowing it on your own? Some websites even allow users to go into "mal" (malfunction), which is basically a high where the brain is temporarily scrambled. As you might imagine, this type of society leads to very simplistic, shallow, unintelligent, consumeristic living.

The book begins with teenager narrator Titus describing a trip with his friends, saying, "We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck." During their trip to the moon, Titus and his friends are "hacked," meaning that their feeds are compromised and they have to be hospitalized for repairs. However, Titus also meets a girl named Violet. She opposes the feed and actually cares about what's happening in the world around her. It is through Violet's dialogue that the reader actually learns about the state of the world, which is apparently both at war and self-destructing environmentally, but the details are sketchy at best, because the narrator (Titus) is uninterested in these things.

While I understand that Anderson wrote this book in Titus's voice (meaning that the entire thing is shallow, simplistic, slangy, and rambling) to demonstrate what society has devolved to as a result of the feed, I really disliked the writing. Ben read about a page over my shoulder and declared that he felt like he was getting dumber with every word he read--which, was, of course, Anderson's point in writing that way.... but gosh, was it annoying. I felt like I had to slog through the entire thing. While the story carried some very interesting commentary and predictions about our current and future societies, the voice in which it was written just made it too hard for me to enjoy. Thumbs-up on the ideas of the story; thumbs-down on the actual reading experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment