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M. T. Anderson – Feed

November 26, 2012

126. Feed by M. T. Anderson (2002)

Length: 299 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian Science Fiction

Started: 04 November 2012
Finished: 06 November 2012

Where did it come from? Bookmooch.
Why do I have it? It’s been too long; I have no idea how this made it onto my wishlist/TBR pile.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 30 November 2008.

If companies are
in your head, how do you know
which thoughts are your own?

Summary: In the dystopian future of Feed, most Americans are connected to the internet by means of a chip set directly into their brain. Information is instantaneously available, chatting with friends takes the form of telepathy, and advertisers have direct access to your user profile… and your brain itself. While on an otherwise lame spring break trip to the moon, Titus meets the odd but charming Violet, who is unlike any of his other friends. When they’re hijacked by a radical group at a nightclub, they’re taken for medical treatment to have their feeds reset. However, Violet’s treatment doesn’t go quite right, and Titus finds himself caught between the girl he might really like, and the life and friends and thought processes he’s always known.

Review: I have to admit, I found this book kind of terrifying. It’s even more so given the fact that it was published in 2002, well before the advent of the Facebook news feed, targeted Google ads based on your search history, and customer profiles so refined that Target knows you’re pregnant whether you want them to or not. (Seriously, if you haven’t heard about this, go read the NYT article. It’s crazy stuff.) The fact that Feed was dead-on right about all of that makes me wonder how prescient it might be about other stuff… and that’s a seriously disquieting thought. Anderson’s world-building is spot-on, creating a universe that’s so over the top that you want to find it silly, but plausible enough that you can’t.

The story itself was a surprise to me; based on the world-building, and the whole first section with the kids’ feeds getting hacked, I was expecting a more Little Brother-ish techno-thriller. It turns out that the feed-hacking has very little bearing on the plot, and that the story is mostly focused on Titus and Violet’s relationship. A sizable part of their relationship’s evolution does deal with their differing attitudes towards the technology in their heads, but I was still surprised how much the focus was on the people. That had its positives and its negatives; Titus behaved and thought very much like a typical teenaged boy (I would assume, never having been inside the head of a typical teenaged boy), but that meant that there were definitely times I didn’t like him as a protagonist very much. I also didn’t entirely buy in to the language of the book. Obviously future teenagers are not going to talk like current teenagers, but I think authors trying to predict the evolution of teenage slang always come off sounding kind of self-conscious and silly; Anderson makes it feel more organic to his world than a lot of other books I’ve read, but it’s still not all the way there. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Recommended to fans of YA dystopian novels, particularly those interested in individuality and privacy in the face of an increasingly corporate world.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Things Mean a Lot, My Friend Amy, Things Mean a Lot and many more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • Location 63: “The hotels were jumping on each other, and there was bumff from like the casinos and mud slides and the gift shops and places where you could rent extra arms.” – printed matter, such as pamphlets, forms, or memorandums, especially of an official nature and deemed of little interest or importance.
    .
  • Location 455: “It was too bad, because I would have liked to have been able to take the opportunity to check out these great bargains, for example they had a trim-shirt with side pockets that I thought I probably would have bought, except it only came in sand, persimmon, and vetch.” – any of various herbs of the genus Vicia, having pinnately compound leaves that terminate in tendrils and small, variously colored flowers.
    .
  • Location 1240: “Smell Factor was banging his head and singing along with the feed, “Intercrural or oral. Ain’t a question of moral.”” – occurring or taking place between the thighs.
    .
  • Location 1970: ““And second, for your info, it’s called ‘birching,’ and they’re lenticels.”” – one of the small, corky pores or narrow lines on the surface of the stems of woody plants that allow the interchange of gases between the interior tissue and the surrounding air. (They’re going to take away my biologist card for not remembering that, but hey, I don’t work on plants!)

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. annettesbookspot permalink
    November 26, 2012 10:50 am

    Now that I think about it, this book was somewhat before it’s time! I read it back when it first came out, and maybe I should read it again. Great review!

    • December 5, 2012 9:06 am

      Annette – I think it’s the coincidence of naming between the Feed in the book, and the Feed on Facebook that really got to me…

  2. November 26, 2012 11:30 am

    I really want to read this. It just hasn’t happened yet…

    • December 5, 2012 9:07 am

      Kailana – It’s short, and pretty fast. (Way faster than Anderson’s Octavian Nothing books, for instance.)

  3. November 26, 2012 3:36 pm

    That does sound terrifying and very good too!

    • December 5, 2012 9:08 am

      Kathy – I like dystopian books that are plausible enough to be unsettling.

  4. November 27, 2012 8:35 pm

    I listened to this on audio quite a while ago, before I was blogging, so I didn’t write a review, but I was very impressed by it!

  5. November 27, 2012 8:39 pm

    I read this one years ago, but it is still fresh in my mind, and it is so relevant to today that I often think of it when I hear discussions of privacy vs. technology. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    • December 5, 2012 9:09 am

      Darla – Privacy vs. technology is such a relevant topic these days, too. I think of Little Brother every time I use my automatic tollway transponder.

  6. November 30, 2012 11:42 am

    I’ve tried to read this one but couldn’t get into it at the time; your review makes me want to give it another try!

    • December 5, 2012 9:10 am

      kay – I can believe that; I think it requires a little bit of a push to get past the hurdle of the language style, which can seem sort of self-conscious and silly.

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