FEED by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick Press, 2002)
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Ever get the feeling that you are just part of the machinery?

Do you  have the sensation that information is accessing you NOT vice versa?

If you cannot categorically answer a defiant NO  to either of these questions then maybe Feed is the novel for you.

The publishers also think that you need to be a ‘Young Adult’ , or at least a mature teenager, to be classified as one of its target audience but I’d say the arguments are applicable to all ages.

That said, you do have to be prepared to put up with the futurist juvenile slang and the author’s approximation of teenage jargon. Instead of ‘I said …..’ and ‘She said ….’, for instance, we have ‘I was like …….’ and ‘She was like …….’ which is as irritating on the page as it is in real life.

For other invented language,  the Feed blog is an invaluable guide to the vocabulary used. For example, I couldn’t work out what ‘Unit /Unette’ meant and found from this glossary that these words are similar to ‘dude/dudette’ and used as  pronouns for  guys and girls.

M.T. ANDERSON

Anderson poses the question: ‘What if we had an internet feed within us, so we were never disconnected?’

He imagines 73% of the population willingly having brain implants inserted to receive information, publicity and to give them the possibility to communicate without speaking to each other.

In this way he forces the reader to consider his/her relationship with consumerism and new technology. There are holograms in place of ‘real’ teachers and the world is controlled by a Global Alliance. Human relations and health care is dictated by machines operated by an anonymous authority. Sound familiar?

Actually his vision of the future is not so far removed from the way things are heading in the present.  It’s more science fact than fiction. The main difference is that interplanetary travel has become the norm but since the main character’s view is that “the Moon sucks and Mars is dumb” this doesn’t seem to add much to the quality of life.

My favourite section of the novel is where the rebellious Violet deliberately adopts weird shopping habits in order to confuse the ‘Feedtech’ marketeers who maintain a purchasing history on all citizens.   Part of me is tempted to do the same with my Amazon profile!

This is not a book aimed at  Technophobes – Anderson is well aware of the seductive nature of the Internet and  the convenience of all the associated devices. But initiatives like the current Adbusters digital detox week  show how the advantages of being permanently online come at a cost.

Anderson’s dystopian vision doesn’t offer any answers but does illustrate how re-wiring our brains and ignoring our human potential could turn us all into gadgets. We can’t un-invent the technology we have created but this does not mean we have to be enslaved by  it.

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