Books — Feed

Big brother meets the brave new internet

By Lisa Parsons []

Feed, by M. T. Anderson, Candlewick Press, 2002 (first paperback edition 2004), 300 pages.

In the near future, people will have internet feeds implanted in their brains.

These feeds will bombard them with advertising fitted to their latest moods and desires. The feeds will make them passive and therefore stupid and inarticulate, so that even the parents and the president will say “like” too much, and use “go” instead of “say,” and people will respond to every crisis by shopping—which they can do just by thinking about it.

Children will be created in conceptionariums and born in terrariums. They will attend School™, where they will learn how to be good consumers. They will have no idea what goes on in the wider natural world.

It’s Big Brother comes to the Brave New Internet in Feed, a novel aimed at young adults.

Feed’s main character is Titus, a typical but sensitive teenage boy. The plot centers on Violet, a girl with whom Titus hooks up during a moon vacation.

After a hacking incident in a nightclub disrupts Titus and Violet’s feed connections, Violet’s feed sustains lasting damage. She petitions several corporations for help but, because Violet has been a rebellious and difficult child, deliberately screwing with the net’s attempts to profile her, the corporations decline. Now, if she’d like to rethink her behavior, and start shopping like a normal human being, and allow them to pigeonhole her, then they’ll reconsider, but she resists. And so Violet is going to die, because her broken feed is damaging her brain.

And Titus, well, he cares, and maybe he wants to help her, but he also just wants to be a regular kid and shop and hang out and stuff, you know?

Feed’s message is of course not about the internet; it’s about getting the society you ask for, from young adulthood on. Aldous Huxley had soma; M. T. Anderson has illicit web sites you plug your brain feed into.

Anderson, who lives in Boston and teaches at Vermont College, is fluent in both teen-think and cyber-think. He’s melded those two worlds to make a grabby, slick, readable little cautionary novel.

- Lisa Parsons

2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH