Sunday, August 12, 2007

Feed, by M. T. Anderson

Feed is a young adult novel. It contains profanity though it is pretty typical profanity from what I hear at the malls.

This is the sort of book that conservatives will hate if they read it. It wants our young people to be anti-consumerism, anti-corporations, and radical environmentalists they would rail. At the end, one of the characters says

We Americans ... are interested only in the consumption of our products. We have no interest in how they they were produced, or what happens to them ... once we discard them, once we throw them away.
In the future nearly everyone has a feed integrated into their brains. The feed is like the entire Internet, entertainment industry (movies, TV), and targeted advertising fed directly into the brain. The feed's main purpose is to get people to buy things and it is constantly updating the purchasing profiles of everyone connected to target the appropriate advertising their way. Titus, the narrator, complains that he needs stuff but doesn't know what to get.

The story follows the decline of Violet, who got her feed after the neuro pathways in her brain were nearly fully formed. Her feed begins to malfunction and, because it is an inseparable part of her brain, her bodily functions begin to shut down. She petitions FeedTech Corp. for "complementary feed repair and/or replacement" but is turned down because of her purchasing history. The AI that delivers the rejection tells her
No one could get what we call a "handle" on your shopping habits, like for example you asking for information about all those wow and brag products and then never buying anything. We have to inform you that our corporate investors were like, "What's doing with this?"
Feed should make the reader very uncomfortable because we seem to be on the road toward what it describes. Because of instantaneous communication through the feed, fashions can change in seconds. A condition called Nostalgia Feedback appears.
People had been getting nostalgia for fashions that were closer and closer to their own time. until finally people became nostalgic for the moment they were actually living in, and the feedback completely froze them.
One fashion trend would be amusing if it didn't seem so plausible considering the heroin chic advertising campaigns that we've seen. This new fashion is called Riot Gear and looks to promote a fashion based on the big twentieth century riots.
"Hey!" said Loga to Quendy, pointing. "Kent State collection, right Great skirt"

"Oh, and omigod!" said Calista. "Are those the Stonewall Clogs? They're so brag."
Tell me you can't see that happening.

The environment is shot, lesions begin to appear on people's bodies. Hair falls out. People begin to lose skin to the point where Titus remarks that "My mom had lost so much skin you could see her teeth even when her mouth was closed." Feed is a grim, dystopian, look at our near future and would be an interesting book to discuss if schools could get away with putting it on the reading list.