Friday, May 01, 2009


by M. T. Anderson

Science fiction fulfills many roles. It can be escapism, a fun ride, a prescient look at things to come. But great science fiction seems to do its best work when you're not reading it, when you've put the book down and you're walking around in your life and you get that vertiginous feeling that what you've been reading about is happening RIGHT NOW.

M. T. Anderson's Feed is one of those books, a short but potent tale of a generation who lives their entire lives connected to the Feed, the equivalent of our internet/ iPhone/instant messaging/satellite TV, so well integrated into the human body that it picks up our tiniest chemical surges and barest hints of desire. Wondering about something? You've already got the answer. Admire somebody's shirt? It's available from the following vendors at these incredible prices. It's not a new idea, but Anderson's gifts of language and characterization put you so vividly in the head of a Feed-connected teen that soon you'll be speaking the language.

Titus is visiting the moon with some of his friends, and, despite the Feed's constant hype about how awesome everything on the moon is, Titus and his friends are quickly getting bored. Then he meets Violet. She's beautiful, but she's also... different. She's connected to the Feed, of course, but talks more like someone who spends her time reading books. Together, they're caught in a terrorist attack, which shuts down their Feed connection, and technicians are called in to operate. Soon they're back up and running, but their lives may never be the same.

The audio version of Feed brings to life the barrage of advertisements, news items, and pop songs Anderson includes between chapters, giving the listener an even more vivid sense of being jacked in to the Feed. Anderson perfectly captures not only the dystopian landscape of corporately-sponsored youth culture, but also the teenage dilemma: enthusiastically accept what the world wants to sell you -- making you an "insider" -- or reject your culture and fight the system, making you an "outsider." Most of us get caught in-between.

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