It had been a while since I’d read any good science fiction. When I was a kid I read almost everything Asimov or Clark wrote; Dune and Hitch-hiker’s Guide changed my life. Anything I read past that (not that I picked up too much, to be honest) didn’t quite pass the bar of what I’d read before. Then this summer I read M.T. Anderson’s Feed.
Feed is a book about a future where everyone is constantly connected to a global communications (and perhaps more importantly, shopping) network via chips implanted in their brains at birth that hook into every major brain center. The feednet is the logical extension of current Internet technologies: it is the ultimate level of social connectivity while at the same time being the main factor in an increasing social isolationism. Users of the feed can chat with friends or loved ones across the globe instantly, will lights to turn on, and enter virtual worlds completely; however their dreams feature advertisements by the corporations that have bought out the government, instead of taking chemicals to get high they malfunction their implanted computer, and they live in climate-controlled bubbles of homes because the actual air is too polluted to support life. In short, Anderson has created a very real and very disturbing vision of what the mid-distant future could be.
The users of the feed are largely unaware of the global issues surrounding them, being lost in a cloud of games, chatting, and pleasure-seeking. The narrator, a boy named Titus, is forced to come to terms with some of the issues after going to the moon and being hacked, temporarily disabling his feed. He is forced to view the world on its terms, and falls for a girl who didn’t always have the feed because her family couldn’t afford it until she was seven. She is the main actor in the book, being generally against the feed culture of constant consumerism, and even telling Titus her plan to resist the feed and its micromarketing by expressing interest in all kinds of things that are unrelated. Titus spends most of the book being annoyed or angry that he can’t process the emotions Violet causes him, and in fact most of the characters are incredibly immature.
The book ends on a dark note that I’m not sure can be called hopeful, but overall the book is a scathing satire of corporate greed, the Internet, and the dumbing-down of our educations systems and neglect of the social welfare. I’d recommend it for anyone.