I was born into a world where the telephone was still wired and had a circular dial to ring up someone. As I grew up, I had to get used to cordless phones and eventually cellular phones. Today, I cannot help being amazed as I, along with a million billion others around this planet, walk around with pocket-sized telephones! And now there is an increasing tendency to not hold the phone at all. The hands-free Bluetooth revolution has already become quite popular. The children of today are born into this world of instantaneous communication and satellite navigation. Wonder where the phone will go next? I for one would not be surprised if the phone, along with all its gimmicks, enters our sanctum sanctorum, the brain.
It is around this thought that M.T.Anderson has based his book Feed. The book portrays yet a world set in the future. The inhabitants of this world are very much like us, enmeshed within the webs of commercialism and peer pressure. There is, however, one difference. While we can still choose to shut ourselves away from the corporate leeching, the characters in Feed cannot. They all have brain implants with feeds from companies swamping their heads with the latest in everything on the market. They are implanted right from birth and have absolutely no control over the contents of the feed.
Inevitably, their thoughts and desires are carefully monitored by corporate interests via these implants and advertisements are fed based on this feedback to completely swamp their thoughts — forcing them to buy, buy, and buy. In fact, the teenagers of Anderson’s world become so obsessed that their every whim and desire is shaped by the endless stream of advertisements. The utter helplessness is highlighted by the characters' peer pressures to accept disfiguring lesions as the latest fashion statement.
The similarity between the fictional and this present world is very scary. Today, we are increasingly swamped with advertisements from companies from all forms of media, making us subconsciously unwilling consumers. Our fashion sense and culture shocks are heavily influenced by what is pumped to our minds by external television sets, radios, and the Internet. I try switching from one radio station to another and cannot help but get irritated with the repetitive monotonous advertisements which I have even managed to unwillingly memorize!
Even the technologically savvy are often overwhelmed with the number of feeds they inevitably end up subscribing to and try to read using their feed fetchers or newsreaders. But we need the media. We need our daily dosage of entertainment. Just imagine if this goes on inside your head and you can’t even turn it off. The people in M.T.Anderson’s Feed also feel the same way. They are so dependent on the incredible benefits of the “feed” such as memorization, having immense databanks, search engines, and chat facilities that they are forced to bear the brunt of the advertisements which eventually take over their likes and dislikes. It is consumerism taken to its extreme end where the consumer’s dignity and sanity are expendable in light of commercial success.
The language in this book is quite different from other books I have come across. You feel like a teenager again. On the back cover, I read that the author had indeed spent quite a considerable amount of time in supermarkets to pick up the phrases used by teenagers. You actually feel yourself becoming young Titus with the feed inside your head, confused over your feelings for Violet.
The author has quite brilliantly split this book’s message between Titus and Violet, the principal characters of this book. While Titus is the bashful teenager amazed at the futuristic world and quite at ease with his feed, Violet represents the protagonist. She represents the disadvantaged and discriminated against section of society. She even tries rebelling but the world has already lost its ethical consideration for such rebellion and instead very conveniently represses her self-proclaimed revolt as a technical glitch. Eventually, the reader is left alone with the consequences of this technology as it effects both Titus and Violet differently. In Violet (and in her father) we see that resistance to such a commercial world is futile. In Titus, we see a remorse that cannot be easily be forgotten.
On the whole, the book is both an entertainment bonanza about a fantasy world set in the future and a carefully constructed projection of our deepest, darkest fears of information overload.
Read it. This is the feed telling you!