By Jeffrey Koch
“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”
It’s short, sweet, to the point, and more importantly it’s under 140 characters, perfect for Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr. The opening line of Feed by M. T. Anderson is emblematic of the world he creates in his narrative. In this dystopia, the people choose to have “the feed” installed in their brains. What is the feed? It’s Twitter, YouTube, Skype, and Google all built into a cozy little suit, cemented together with ads, and placed snugly into your brain pan.
Sounds like a party, right?
The book follows the protagonist, Titus, and his friends as they live their lives in the ebb and flow of the feed like normal teenagers, changing styles and attitudes at the drop of a hat to keep up with the global consciousness. Everything about their lives is what any teen would call normal, until they visit the moon. On the moon they go to anti-gravity clubs, meet a girl named Violet, and get struck by a feed hacking cult.
And that’s when everything changes.
In his novel, M. T. Anderson explores the ever-evolving world of pop culture and the capriciousness of the hive mind that the internet can be. Through blurbs, ads, and Violet’s counter-cultural background, the author paints a picture of a world where everything that might matter today has been banalized by the daily deluge of information pouring into people’s brains. The sea is too polluted to visit without a suit, international politics are in shambles, and everyone has lesions but no one thinks anything of it. The people would rather watch the TV piped directly into their brains. Though I often hesitate to make this comparison, M. T. Anderson’s world could truly give Huxley’s a run for his money.
What drives the book home the most effectively is the voice of the narrator. It’s written in the exact fashion someone would expect from a kid who’s grown up with the entirety of the internet in his brain. There’s plenty of slang and “she was like” and da da da da da language like hastily typed status updates written by huffy preteens. Not a single word falls out of character. As grating as it may get at times, for those of us who frequent the high prose of classical literature, the compositional skill that went into this novel is undeniable.
Probably my favorite bit of dystopian weirdness through the whole novel is the beef maze. Beef maze? Yes, a maze made of walls of living, pulsing beef that Titus and Violet flit through just as casually as we might navigate a corn maze. It’s splendidly odd and the scene is a light-hearted reprieve from a darkening narrative. I’d recommend this book to dystopian fans and YA fans alike. A solid 7 out of 10.