Friday, May 29, 2009
Here I go again with deliving into science fiction... I just finished reading Feed, a dystopian novel by MT Anderson. The cover of it drew me to it; it also looked pretty new and innovative, so I thought I would give it a try. I was awfully surprised!
Feed takes place some time in the future where humans are able to travel to different planets just as a vacation. People also live above the Earth (sort of like in Star Wars), and they drive up cars (above Earth) and down cars (those down on Earth). The world is overrun by consumerism by this thing called the feed.
What is the feed? Basically, 60% of the population has this device called feed installed into their brains. The feed is basically a computer that becomes a part of your brain. It gives you pop up ads when you're shopping or stressing interest in purchasing something; it allows you to telepathically speak with one other person, similar to AIM chatting; it allows you to save all memories, and you can even send them to people if you want; it allows you to watch television programs. Basically, the feed provides the same functions of a computer, but it's attached to your brain. The only problem is that it can be hacked into by external parties--even the government.
Since this takes place in the future, Anderson imbeds a lot of commentary on his vision for the future. For example, he has America overrun by consumerism with the feed. He has the United States in a state of panic and chaos. Nations of the world are constantly at arms with one another, even threatening possible total anniahlation. The environment has gone to hell; animals and plantlife are basically at their ends, or are a thing of the past. Humans are shallow and stupid; they rely on their computers for their intelligence, and, without them, they would really just be shells.
Feed contains two main characters: Titus, the narrator who enjoys having the feed, and Violet, the girlfriend who does not like the feed. Hearing their discussions on having or not having the feed is very interesting. Violet represents the "older world" that does not like computers, consumerism, and technology overstepping its boundaries. Titus represents the new age of computers and technology making life easier (or even too easy to dumb down things). Violet tries to convince Titus to resist the feed, but he does not end up being able to do so. Violet's feed ends up destroying her (basically killing her) which is kind of ironic when you think of the symbolism.
Wikipedia offers a very cool explanation of the characters' symbolism:
"Though Titus is largely unaware of it, the America of the book is rapidly collapsing, a decline that mirrors that of Violet. In some ways, Violet represents what the author believes America should stand for. Just as Violet does not quite die in the book (the last chapter being called 4.6%), it is never explicitly stated that America ends, though the damage, like the damage to Violet, is likely completely unrepairable. The world may also end as a result of America's actions, with the severe damage to the health of the general population and enormous ecological disasters. Meanwhile, Titus, the consumer, and Anderson's image of what America is becoming ignores and distances himself from Violet to avoid hearing what she has to say. The book ends on a very pessimistic note."
I also did like how the novel didn't end so wonderfully. I think it sets the tone for how Anderson sees us heading. He also doesn't have the wonderful love story work out in the end, because it doesn't always. It's a tragic ending, and Titus really is a stubborn, arrogant teenager. I hated him towards the end, but that behavior is typical of male adolescents. It's so realistic and so frustrating all at the same time!
The book also includes this function called "in mal" where teenagers purposely have their feeds malfunction to stimulate pleasure and joy. It's basically the equivalent of doing drugs. But, I think it's interesting because drugs essentially shut down or malfunction in the brain, so it's cool to compare the two because people don't often always see it that way.
Overall, Feed was a great book. Boys could really get into this piece. It acts as a great means to discuss the future, technology, drugs, and consumerism. And, it's easy to read. They just kind of have difficult language (made up language to imitate changing dialects in the future), but you catch on after a while.
So, what do you think of Feed?