Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Feed  by M.T. Anderson
(Borrowed from the Camden County Library System)

Ever wonder just what kind of a world we're creating?  For every awesome thing the advances in technology bring us, they take a little of our freedom away. You have the government scanning your emails and tweets and listening in on your phone calls. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, or paranoid by nature, but the way every drop of our privacy slowly erodes is really creepy.  Sure, much of our loss of privacy is our own fault.  In an effort to stay connected with more people and to share ourselves, we permit every personal detail to become public, whether we consciously agree to it, or not.

In this dystopian novel, it's pretty easy to see how much of this is possible.  I don't know if I see space travel like this ever being a thing, but having the internet in your head, retailers prompting you with advertisements and enticing you to buy!buy!buy! is not much of a stretch.  People are in constant contact and easily reachable all the time.  Except for me.  I leave my phone on the charger for days. When I do have it with me, I usually have it in my handbag and rarely remember to make sure that it isn't just on vibrate or mute. On the odd occasion that I do hear, or feel it ringing in my purse, my first reaction is always annoyance. My husband knows by the way I answer the phone if I am not at home, and makes a point of keeping the conversation short, for me.  I still use my phone every day, although rarely as a phone, if I can help it.

The titular feed is a surgical implant that allows people to instantly connect with and interact with other people, retailers, entertainment, etc.  It's a communication device, but it also responds to the thoughts of the brain it's connected to.  For Titus and his friends, it is all they know, all they've ever known.  They take a trip to the moon for spring break, they meet Violet, who has had a different experience with the feed.  They also meet a hacker who hijacks the messages in their brains. The kids are taken to a hospital, their feeds shut down until the problem can be fixed and for the first time in their lives they are disconnected from each other and the world.  

The disconnect becomes barely a memory once the kids get hooked back up and return home.  For Violet it's different. She got the feed late and has always had problems with it.  She also has no interest in having her thoughts and opinions constantly influenced and marketed to.  Just as Titus starts to understand how the feed has affected him and his friends, he learns just how disastrous of an effect it's had on Violet.

There are the books that predict a future vastly different from ours and then there are the books that show you a potential future filled with things that are so possible if the world stays on its current trajectory.  You have The Handmaid's Tale that proposes a future where women's rights have completely dissolved.  For every advance society makes toward freedom and equality, there are still erosions taking place all over the world.  

Or, how about The Hunger Games.  How many seasons of Survivor have they made?  And, how many countries have children fighting wars they don't understand? Small children, I'm talking single digit years of life, handed guns and sent out to kill.  This is happening in the world right now.  I'm not suggesting that this is something that's going to spread all over the world. I'm pretty sure that the first and second world countries wouldn't ever sink so low.  I'm just saying that it isn't as much of a stretch as you may think, as you read about Katniss Everdeen from the comfort of your home.

Feed shows us a world where our technology reaches the point where we give up all of our individuality and the ability to think for ourselves and just hand it all over to corporations.  Who needs education when you can just think the question and get the answer?  Who needs to worry about changing trends when a voice in your head will notify you of the changes and set you up with the products and services you need to be on the cutting edge?  On the edges of all of this is the outcome of our industrial age, a completely artificial atmosphere.  There are just tiny little pockets of life on earth left.  I don't mean the people. I mean the plants and the animals and the water.  There are loads of people and they seem to just adapt.  I'm sure we would adapt, I just don't think I would want to.


Judy Krueger said...

Great review! I forgot how ahead of its time this book was. As for first and second world countries not using their children for armies, I don't think we are that far away. As it is, a large majority of our soldiers right now are 17 or 18 at the most and they come from the most impoverished areas.

JoanneMarie Faust said...

I was just thinking that this morning, Judy. I was watching the news and they were showing soldiers coming home for the holidays and every single face was very young and non-white. When it gives an impoverished kid the opportunity to succeed in ways they might not be afforded otherwise, it seems like a great idea. Unfortunately, too often it's just an easy way to sacrifice the socioeconomically disadvantaged to the war machine.