Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Feed, by M. T. Anderson

This audiobook was obtained as a free download from Overdrive Audio through the Alachua County Public Library. It was 5 hours and 1 minute long, and was narrated by David Aaron Baker.

A kind of technopunk novel set in what seems to be the mid to late 21st century. I may have missed a time reference. All the kids have had live feed installed from an early age. Now you can Instant Message each other, get updates, surf the net, and even watch network programming in your head. No one has to be smart anymore, because you can look up everything right now, wherever you are. So now we are all smart! And networked, and exploited by a continual stream of advertising to let you know you can also order anything you want, right now, from inside your head.

The most powerful thing about this book is not the concept, but the way the author makes it all so real. The kids are all high school age, going to privatized schools, and getting "malfunctioned" by going to game sites that quite literally blow their minds. Except for one girl, Violet, whose parents had home-schooled her and acquiesced to having her feed installed later in her childhood. Violet's awareness of a life beyond the feed makes her especially enticing to Titus, a boy who is caught up in the consumer culture of mindlessness. She likes real experiences, instead of the bizarre fads that overwhelm kids on an almost daily basis, now that it can be done so quickly.

If you can get past the fairly regular barrage of F-bombs, this is a very well-written and disturbing book. It all seems so possible in our own lifetimes. The dialog is an especially eerie feature. The adults talk like the kids today ("Dude, that was, like, awesome!") and the kids have a new jargon in which all sentences are punctuated by calling each other, "Unit!" No, it's just the boys that do that. And the girls are all hung up on a show called, "Oh! Wow! Thing!"

This is part tech satire, part sad love story, and it is especially engaging as an audiobook, where you can experience the Feed as it periodically bursts into the narration. This is a solid 3 star book with gusts of 4.

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