Like most book lovers, I have read more books than I could possibly count. I have spent the past 2.5 decades reading book after book after book, specifically in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. Very few of these books have left as lasting an impression as Feed, a young adult sci-fi novel from author, M.T. Anderson. I read this book in 2013 and I'm still thinking about it.
A brief quip on Anderson – he was born and raised in Massachusetts and lives there today. He has been a radio DJ and a college professor and currently sits on the board of Vermont College of Fine Arts and National Children’s Book and Literary Alliance. He has published over a dozen books since 1997.
Feed takes place in the future…a future that isn’t too far away. All-powerful American corporations are obsessed with controlling consumerism, by any means necessary and at the expense of everything else. The planet is ecologically devastated, seemingly beyond repair, the mass production of goods too much for the planet to continue to handle.
Despite environmental risks and pleas from world’s leaders, American corporations continue to encourage consumerism. 73% of American citizens are connected to the Feednet, a digital network accessible via an implant in the brain called a feed. The feed gives consumers direct access to digital information, instant purchasing, and if shared, memories of others. In return, consumer profiles are created for each individual, allowing the feed to cater its advertising to the needs of that individual.
Sounds a lot like the targeting advertising on desktop and mobile devices today, huh?
What’s impressive is that Anderson wrote this story back in 2002, before Facebook’s infamous newsfeed and before tech companies had enough consumer data to create the algorithms of today that make ad tech intelligent. Some sci-fi geeks (me included) like to say that many a sci-fi idea has inspired many an inventor, and maybe Feed is one of them. Google revolutionized modern intellectualism by making information so easily accessible, yes, but when Feed was published, online advertising was NOTHING like what we see today…or in what Anderson depicted. That alone, fascinated me enough to keep reading.
The story follows Titus and Violet, a teenage couple that meet, by accident, on the Moon during spring break. They are caught in the crossfire of a feed hack and wake up in a hospital. Their feeds have been shutdown for repair and their minds are quiet, forcing them to communicate the old fashioned way, without private feed chats (m-chatting). Titus’s feed was installed when he was an infant, but Violet’s wasn’t installed until age 7. Unlike any of his other friends, Violet questions the feed, the government, and their way of life. Refusing to allow the government to categorize her based on her data, she decides to make it her mission to confuse her feed. Titus, in love, tags along.
I’ll stop there before I start to give too much away…but if I haven’t made it clear yet, READ THIS BOOK! As far as anti-consumerism books, this one is tops….I think it’s almost as good as Fight Club. Where Fight Club takes place in present day, Feed’s setting is more technologically advanced, like Minority Report. If you like either of those stories, you’ll like Feed, guaranteed.