It’s the not so distant future. Everyone has feeds in their heads, devices that track their likes, Skype/Instant Messenger psychic chats, all the knowledge SCHOOL™ can cram into the jelly like skulls. Everyone is hot, everyone is somewhat taken cared of, and it’s mega null to go the Moon.
Released in 2004, Feed is a novel I don’t think gets enough credit/praise for it’s unsettlingly accurate prediction of the current era, accurate teenage dialogue, and telling a simple love story at the end of a dead future.
Feed is a love story between Titus, a popular but questioning kid, who meets Violet, a quirky, inquisitive girl who is not connected to a feed. After a hack gone wrong, the two meet up and begin a strange relationship against the backdrop of a dystopian setting that is not crazy, outrageous, but rather so mundane its inevitability.
Imagine the tone of American Psycho with a more likable but still dumb male protagonist and a quirky, critical female lead. But the genius behind Feed is its simple story of love, trying to fit in, corporate expansion, and the decline of America at the end of the 21st century, is the perspective it presents. The world is ending but to the protagonist, it doesn’t matter. He’s trying to figure out Violet and see the world the way she does. They get closer, they argue, they fight, but they come closer to each other.
Story and character drive Feed. You won’t find massive info dumps that kill the story’s pacing about the political climate or the fact everyone lives in bubbled towns stacked on top of each other with fake food, fake trees, and fake air. Anderson drips these world-building tidbits in simple observations, or casual references/conversations. For the more world-building masochist who wants to know every interesting but secondary bit of information, you’ll be disappointed to not find a wholly fleshed out world. I would argue this is Feed’s strength in world-building. The elements presented support/strengthens the plot and narrative. There are interludes each chapter alluding to events in the greater setting, involving a ignorant and war-mongering President completely disconnected from politics and reality. It’s funny because of how close it is to our current environment. It’s unintentional but eerily prophetic.
Feed is still a YA story. There’s some dumb conflicts that could be avoided, story-lines that are mentioned but never explored, but I don’t think Anderson was trying to write some deep story. He wrote a satire that skewed early 2000s consumerism, early Millennials, and the rise of Facebook and other apps. Violet has a tragic condition that relates to her lack of a feed. It’s a YA plot/character device that actually works. What could have been a Hallmark style cliche, ends up being the driving force behind Titus and Violet’s breakup. There is a sex scene in the novel that’s pretty much the “climax” (blah, kill me) as Violet and Titus have sex for the first time. Titus is growing increasingly distant and sick of Violet’s prodding and trying to force him to get off the feed. All I need to say is flipper arm. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
The story ends with Titus meeting Violet’s father, who provided for his daughter’s medical bills, and forces Titus to relive her final moments. Titus enters Violet’s room, and she is a functioning vegetable. Ironically, she is hooked to the feed to save her life. The very system she tried to escape ends up saving her. Titus tells her he’s trying to resist in his own way, the on goings of his friends, and current news. She can’t respond other than drooling or other opening her mouth. Titus breakdowns in tears, holding her hand. While he’s dating an one of his friends, it’s clear he truly loved Violet but true to his personality, he couldn’t deal with her. Violet changed Titus, too late. As the story ends with Titus sobbing, the President threatens to bomb some country in the last interlude.
The final line of the novel reflects the entire theme of the story.
Everything must go.
Feed was taught in middle schools in the 2000s. It’s one of those required readings in American schools. It should be given it’s increasing relevance in today’s climate. Dystopia often relies on ludicrous political setups, scenarios, to emphasize how to avoid such a fate. Feed is rooted in the realities of today, projected in a frighteningly logical outcome at the end of this century. It’s not perfect but M.T Anderson’s Feed is a classic of the Millennial era and should be read by teens today and even Millennials looking back on our adolescence at the dawn of the 21st century.