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Book Review: Feed by M.T. Anderson

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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!

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About V.R.Manoj

  • TJ Smith

    I found Feed’s reputation to be overblown. Surely there are better anti-utopian themes. The book is aimed at 14+, but the language is tough and in most instances totally for shock value and nothing else. It could have been far more effective if I did not have to wade through all the f**k, sh*t, and g*d**ns. Dear Mr. Anderson, I really don’t like what you are trying to pass off as youth fiction. Read Robert Heinlein and you will get my point!

  • A J East

    i Read this book in my english class for an assesment on a text. i found this book really interesting and to the commenter above, i can relate to the “youth fiction” in this book because alot of the topics described in this book could very nearly be possible. there are already microchips being implanted into stroke victims brains so they cam communicate through computers….,dont believe me, go to this url. Me being a teenager myself and having to live in the very real reality of global warming can relate the “domes” in the story to what may happen in the future. Also the age inwhich feed is set in is obviously not too far away therefore teenagers my age may have to live in conditions similar to the ones in feed.
    in my opinion this book is one of the best books i have read in a long time. from me it really is a good book.

  • Rina

    this book is very well writn.
    take time to understand it…and think outside of the box.

  • C E L I N E

    This book is so good. i absolutely loved it. even the “language”. It was grate! It made me want to not watch TV anymore and enjoy the outdoors. It made me want to “go against the Feed.”
    Mr. Anderson! Thank you for an amazing book!! :D

  • J E S S

    this book extremly causes confusion i need help understanding itt!

  • bowen

    This novel is depressing and disturbing for any age, and although I agree with the lesson being tought, I also agree with TJ Smith that there was harsh and obscene language completely irrelevant to the topic in the book. M.T. Anderson’s inderect insults and generalizations of today’s youth expose his inner hatred of the world, and pitless denial of hapiness. It is in his novel that he escapes himself and the real world to complete his life’s goal: to destroy planet earth and embrace the evil of the universe.

  • orlockin

    i found this book in my nearby public library and picked for a novel that will keep me going throughout. i was wrong. this sick display of outrageous teen adolecence disguted me in not only my mind but of most private of areas. the twisted tale gave me grim thoughts of painless suicide for it pushed me further into my depression. i curiously glanced over at my uncle’s revolver while thinking twice about the actions i had in mind often as i read depressing pages of this story wich only influenced to young children to foul up thier choice of daily vocabulary and disrupt the peace of mind that we awaken to. i was also very confused about the words meg, unit, and null. this of course is the result of MT. Anderson’s mind trying to be “radical”.

  • orlockin

    this is not suposed to insult you mt anderson

  • amanda

    the foul language is to emphasize that they have no vocabilary. they often dont know how to say things (because they’re idiots-since they cant think for themselves’ the feeds help them with words)

    thats why it uses profanity but i agree its kinda annoying at times.

  • karin

    I did find the vocab. to be well written, but i found it very confusing and the characters were sometimes annoying, as they swore all the time and they thought everything was null. I couldn’t find a reason for me to continue reading the book other than for English class. I found this book to be very saddening and disturbing.

  • James Correel

    i read this book for my senior English class. i absolutely loved the book. too bad they wont make another book afterwards.

  • Cookie hall

    this book in interestin, but very confusing. you really have to use your knowledge of english, and social skills to understand it….think outside the box sometimes!

  • bob

    i tried to read this book but it was so much profanity it made some parts hard to understand. i think the best thing about it was reading whaat a grown adult think teens acculy act like.

  • Matt

    The book is meant to be terrifying. That is part of the point of the genre.

    I thought this book was a fantastic vision of things to come… and it cracks me up reading this message board and seeing the numerous misspellings and grammatical errors. Truly Feed’s observations were dead on!

  • Trichechus

    Matt, we’re on the same term! :) Everyone is complaining about the language and how Anderson is falsely portraying teenagers. He wanted to show that people consumed by the feed have limited vocabulary, and you guys obviously have the same problem for such careless errors. Also, I do agree that not all teenagers swear, but a lot of people in my school find the need to put “fuck” or “shit” in their sentences every few times. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people, they just do it out of habit.

    And with the slang, what did you guys expect? Stop complaining about how it’s not understandable. This book takes place in the future, for gods sake. I’m sure the slang wouldn’t be the exact same as it is now. And, is it THAT hard to figure out what “meg” or “null” means? Use your heads.

    As for the book, I read it at 14, and thought it was wonderful. It was a witty way of showing the chaos in the world. Also, I had no complaints about it because I used my head and tried to THINK. The book promotes thinking and stretching your curiosity but from what I see, many of the commenters here do not realize it. The author even stated it in the extras part of the book. He’s encouraging you all not to fall into the media slurs and to keep your individuality. To think outside the box.

    PS. I may sound bratty, but you know what Im saying here is nothing but cold hard facts. :) Also, I know I don’t have perfect grammar/spelling/sentence structure either (especially since Im on my phone while writing this :x) but atleast I TRY, something you guys should consider doing.

  • justin

    This book was very good in my opinion, at first the vocab was a bit overwhelming but once i got used to it, it seemed very easy to read. I thought it had a very good storyline. especially the chapter titles, even without reading any of the chapters you can kinda fortell how its going to end or how its progression. i think the lesson of the story is live your life to the fullest of your extent becuase you’ll never know when it will end.

  • Impikmin

    The amount of swearing is somewhat accurate to today’s teenagers. No one making comments like “the amount of swearing was gross and unrealistic” knows anything about the teenage dialect.

  • Chantel

    i lve this book so much im not totally finished with it yet but it is an awsome book.

  • Klinx

    Read this a while ago and just watched a film that reminded me of it.
    Good book and I think it should be made into a film!!

  • ResistTheFeed

    I, for one, loved this book. The swearing didn’t bother me (as a senior in high school, it’s hardly shocking) and I found that it added to the setting. What kind of world is this where teenagers, parents, even the president are lowered to using common profanity to express themselves? I look at it as a stylistic device, and I don’t think having Titus or Link say “Oh darn – fudge it – let’s go home” would have the same effect. It’s part of the characters as M.T. Anderson thought they would speak. Chill out, please. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t think all teenagers are consumerist idiots. I read somewhere (Goodreads.com?) that the type of people who dislike Feed are exactly the people who need to read it. However, like the proles in Orwell’s 1984, they will likely not do anything to help their situation; they’re happy with what they have now and are apathetic about changing anything.
    There’s my two cents about the present discussion. I loved this book, loved the parallels with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and I highly recommend it for anyone. It really makes me think about how our information overflow is destroying our individuality and personalities.
    As an afterthought, I particularly liked how Violet’s experiment with product purchasing information leads to the companies refusing to help her. It’s really quite frightening to see ourselves being defined by what we buy.

  • Josh

    The countless grammatical errors made in comments by the novel’s supporters above is beyond ironic. I am more terrified by the future of communication now than after finishing the book. Thank you for proving Anderson’s point readers.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    V. R.

    Wow! Great review, and I would expound more on this thread, but, the little grammy critic here might complain.

    “I hope that was all messed up for ya.”

  • Duncan

    I, for one, really liked the book. I could not put it down by the end. Though I do think that 30 years from now (about the time this book takes place in) we will not be inhabiting the moon, Mars, or especially Venus. We won’t be riding “upcars” and having indivdual atmoshpheres for our houses. Yet I think that the “feed” is entirely possible. It’s scary, but America is heading down that road.

    As for the way this book was written,I think all the swearing made complete sense. I’m a high school sophomore and I believe he held back on the language a bit. I can’t walk a yard in the hallways without hearing the f-bomb. I, too, disliked the way the kids were portrayed at first but then Violet came along and she represented the smidge of decency in today’s youth. I was rooting for her through the whole book.

    Overall, I thought this book was great. I know some of you found it (boo-hoo) depressing, but the outcome was sad for a reason: America has a bleak future if it does not get away from its current tendencies. I.e. extreme commercialism ending the ability to think for oneself, deforestation, drug and alcohol abuse, an ever worsening obssession with money and material goods, etc. All of these issues with which this book adresses wonderfully.

  • jd

    i love this book my teacher perchest it .She inceriged us to read it and my class and i agree that it is triffic

  • del

    i likeddd this booooook verrrry much soooo.

  • Mike

    Book was very interesting however, in many ways it is a rip-off of Zamyatin’s “We”, perhaps the first, great, dystopian novel.

  • Mike

    I am a 57-yr old geezer who was given Feed by a 70+ yr old retired school principal who thought it was great. Age can actually be an advantage when it comes to thinking out of the box because, like Violet, we were not connected to the feed until we were older.

    Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who was telling me about the latest genocide du jour in the world and I realized that really, I knew very little about it. Last night as I watched the world news I realized that I knew nothing about those things because I was on a different feed than my friend. I flashed back to the novel and recalled how Violet knew about the black goo (oil? The gulf oil spill?) and mall riots but, other characters knew nothing about those events. What feed are you on?

    For me, the novel seemed to be more about corporate mind control than being about futuristic teenagers. Did you ever order a Net-Flix movie or a book from Amazon? Often, you will be pestered by some computer that suggests, “If you liked —, then you might like—” followed by a series of pop-ups trying to sell you something based on information gathered by corporations about what you have purchased in the past. We are constantly being fed and told what we like. Perhaps because I was hooked up to the feed later than you, I can see it better.

    I thought about all the various feeds in our lives, the T.V’s, and those smaller pocket-sized feeds that we press to our heads only a few inches from our brains. It’s not too far from becoming part of our brains. Everything that goes through those corporate owned and sponsored feeds and into our heads is metabolized in our bodies, primarily by the brain and, don’t think that it hasn’t changed your brain chemistry.

    At this point in your lives, disconnecting from the feed might just kill you as it did Violet, it has become part of your brain. Isn’t it safer just to let others do your thinking for you? Remember, things didn’t go well for Violet when she started to think out of the box, her friends talked about her behind her back, then she bumped into some crazy free thinker who short circuited her feed, changed her thinking, and, well it was all down hill from there. Don’t worry, if you start to exhibit symptoms of free thinking, someone from Tec will try to fix the ‘problem’ and squelch you. Hopefully, you will be repaired because they can’t have the likes of you shorting out the system.

  • Nikki

    This book is like a reality punch in the stomach. MR Anderson portrays what is already occuring in our world (the major details like politics and youth being oblivious to global issues and our dependance on technology.) and it sort of makes you realize what your living in and the horrifying end that you are setting for either ur or future generations. At first I thought that Titus was being a “meany” to violet but I guessing understand.
    oh and I was shocked that this was 14+

  • Ces

    I just want to say thank you to everyone who has posted! I am currently working on a unit plan for Feed for 11th/12th graders. I am almost ready to start my student teaching and had read this book in my young adult literature class and WOW. Likewise with the comments about swearing… most, but not all students do swear this much. I have spent countless hours observing, monitoring hallways, and sitting in the lunchroom to hear it. So believe it or not, not all your little angels are in fact angels. Their virgin ears have heard it at some point. To the comments on it’s outrageous with the advertising…hello we are constantly bombarded with ads and let’s be real, they aren’t exactly portraying the greatest of images (skinny, sexy, etc.). Who cares if it sounds unrealistic? It is science fiction! And I, obviously, think it would be a great change from the stale “English Cannon” that bores most students to death. :)

  • sam

    i liked the book. im doing a book report on it right now.

  • bky

    this book is amazing. it is my favorite and i can see it being reality in the near future. and to those people who say the launguage is too obsecne and uncalled for or w.e…well grow up. and also FUCK. that is all. great book

  • Silver

    I read this book for English this year (I am 14), and I loathed it. For a long time I was not entirely sure why I hated it so much, but now I realize it’s because the parallels between Feed and the real world are painfully obvious. I already have a phobia of paralysis, and some of Violet’s experiences drove me to tears.

    I can understand why people like it. It’s a satirical book – politicians, especially the president (who calls another political leader a “sh!t head” and then says it was to praise the fertility of his thoughts) are mocked openly. Like someone has said already, the profanity is there only because they don’t know what to say, much like some people at my school.

    Everything is censored. Your thoughts and desires are read. When Titus is looking at Violet in one of the earlier chapters, he’s thinking about how beautiful she is – and her spine is… her spine is…
    When the feed suggested “supple”, I put down the book for some time because it frightened me so much.