Feed by M. T. Anderson: B+

From the back cover:
“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”

So says Titus, whose ability to read, write, and even think for himself has been almost completely obliterated by his “feed,” a transmitter implanted directly into his brain. Feeds are a crucial part of life for Titus and his friends. After all, how else would they know where to party on the moon, how to get bargains at Weatherbee & Crotch, or how to accessorize the mysterious lesions everyone’s been getting? But then Titus meets Violet, a girl who cares about what’s happening to the world and challenges everything Titus and his friends hold dear. A girl who decides to fight the feed.

I almost gave up on this within the first five minutes of listening to it. Not only was there the initially baffling futuristic slang and rampant profanity, but also the fact that the main characters are all idiot teens. One soon finds, however, that it isn’t only the teenagers who talk and act like this, but all of society. It was pretty jarring to hear the protagonist’s dad say, “She’s, like, woah” to describe his wife’s reaction to something, but in this environment, people never learn to speak or think for themselves in a coherent fashion. Some can’t even read or write. It’s as if their minds have atrophied.

Feed is a cautionary tale of what might eventually happen when there’s no need to work for anything. You can look up any information you need rather than think about it, spyware in your head knows what you’ll want and need before you do and shows you myriad ways to go about getting it, and access to continual feedcast entertainment is easy, though it has been so completely dumbed down that the most popular program is simply called “Oh. Wow. Thing.”

The world and society of the novel is well and thoroughly developed, and one need not fully subscribe to the “pop culture is evil” belief in order to appreciate skillful satire. The best part of the novel is Titus’ struggle with trying to fathom something big and deep about his world. He has limited experience with thinking for himself, and his realization that he may actually be kind of dumb was compelling. He behaved pretty realistically for a teenage boy, including a large passage near the end where he’s in need of much smacking. A couple of things I particularly disliked were how message-y the story was and the idiocy of most of the characters. Even if it’s a plot point, it is still idiocy and it annoys.

Lastly, a note on format. The Random House Listening Library production of Feed is excellent. The narrator did a stellar job and the adaptations of the banner ads with which everyone’s continually assailed are great, with zippy music and cheesy announcers. If you have the chance to go the unabridged audio route, I’d recommend it.

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