M.T. Anderson's Feed is a young adult (14+) dystopia. In it, three quarters of humanity, those with money to spend, have a 'feed' interface in their brains. Implanted when they are very young, the feed supplied through this wetware allows them to look up facts, chat each other without typing on a computer and receive messages. Most of these messages are ads.
Given the advantages of instant, encyclopedic knowledge, young people use "the Feed" to get ahead at School (TM). That's right, in this satire of consumerism run amok, the term school has been trademarked and is owned by a big corporation. Much of what they learn is how to be compliant and even compulsive consumers. The shallowest of all is a clone of Abraham Lincoln. Ouch!
As an adult, I appreciate the world-building and snarkiness of Anderson's imagination. These teenagers will strike real teen readers as very dumb, because they are. Stultified by dependence on the feed to supply thoughts and vocabulary, they have become ultimate consumers. They shop compulsively and change their hair and dermal "lesions" in accordance to fashion and political pressure. Many fritter their funds on high tech Disneylands like the Moon or on-line drug experiences that 'crash' their brains.
It's as if mall rats have overrun the world, caught up in the mazes of major corporations. Their only legacy: pollution and waste.
The almost love story between the protagonist, a son of privilege, and the object of his fascination (a home-schooled girl from a family made poor by refusing the feed) is challenging and sure to frustrate readers. Teen aged boys and girls will ask: What's wrong with this guy? Doesn't he have a heart? A focused thought? Can anyone be that shallow? At the same time they will know the answer: it's the feed. He is the victim of mental interference and can't help being a stunned bunny.
This is the kind of book I would have lapped up at that age. Speculative, idea-oriented and, despite the love interest, not at all romantic. I give it two hairy opposable thumbs up.
Labels: SF, Teen Novel