- Feed (novel)
infobox Book |
name = Feed
Matthew Tobin Anderson
language = English
Science fiction novel
release_date = 2002
media_type = Print (Hardback &
2002) is a dystopian novelof the postcyberpunk genreby M. T. (Matthew Tobin) Anderson. The story revolves around a teenage boy and his relationship with a girl with a vastly different world perspective. They live within a futuristic world where technology has merged electronics and telecommunications with the human mind, something which plays a major role in the novel. The book is a dark satireabout corporate power, consumerism, information technology, and data miningin society.
The story depicts a future in which the
Internethas evolved into the "Feednet"; a computer networkto which the brains of American citizens are directly connected by means of an implanted computer chip called a "Feed", which over 70% of Americans have set in their brain. Privacyhas become a thing of the past; Corporations are free to monitor and manipulate citizens' thoughts, people's thoughts are interrupted by the mental equivalent of pop-up ads, sometimes to a debilitating degree, and the government can even subpoenaone's memories. People can "M-Chat" each other (a form of evolved Instant Messaging) on closed channels, effectively creating a form of telepathy. In addition, the Feed chip is implanted at such an early age that it actually takes over the running of many brain functions as the child matures. As a result, certain sites on the Feednet allow users to go "In Mal"; deliberately cause their feedchips to malfunction, causing physical and mental sensations similar to some illegal drugs.
While spending Spring Break on the moon, Titus and his friends meet Violet Durn, a strange young woman whom they invite to go partying with them. While at a club, a man from the Coalition of Pity (an anti-feed organization) hacks their feeds, causing them to uncontrollably spout anti-feed slogans before going unconscious. They wake up in a hospital, unable to connect to their FeedNet. Since they have nothing else to do, Violet and Titus begin to talk instead of M-Chatting. Violet then brings Titus with her to a garden where a hole in space can be seen straightening the dead plants. Titus says, "It's like a squid in love with the sky", and Violet kisses Titus. They become boyfriend and girlfriend. After several days, their Feeds are brought back online and they go back to Earth.
After a short period of recuperation, Quendy throws a party while Titus comments how quickly things have gone back to normal. Violet reveals to him that her feed was damaged much more severely than his.
Meanwhile, Titus begins to have strange dreams in which his feed is examined by unknown individuals. It is suggested that the others who were hacked have these dreams, too. At first, Titus cannot remember these dreams for weeks.
Soon, Violet comes up with the idea of resisting the feed. The
corporationsand conglomeratesresponsible for the feed participate in data miningby monitoring the purchases and interests of those with the feed, and using this information to fit individuals into consumer profiles. Violet plans to show interest in random items that will make it impossible for her to be fit into a profile. She and Titus spend a day at the mall, looking at strange items. At the end of the day, Violet receives such an immense amount of banners that they temporarily cut off the outside world.
When school restarts, Titus goes through a phase of depression caused by feelings of inferiority to Violet, accentuated by poor marks in schoolTM. Noticing this, his parents try to cheer him up. It is revealed that humans are no longer capable of
sexual reproductiondue to radiation, and all babies are tailor-made through Artificial insemination. Titus's appearance was partly based on a failed movie star. Titus's parents then buy him a new upcar.
Titus, Violet, and Titus' father go car shopping. Violet thinks Titus is spoiled, though she does not say this explicitly. She tells him that the hacker from the Coalition of Pity died from the bludgeoning given to him by the police. At dinner, Titus and his father have a fight over whether she should have told Titus that the hacker died.
The next day, Titus and Violet go on a day-trip to Beef Country, where
in-vitro meatis made in massive slabs. Titus picks Violet up at her house, where he meets her father for the first time. On the way home, Violet asks Titus how he would like to die, saying she has been thinking about it a lot. Titus chooses sensory overload, and asks whether Violet will be around to pull his plug. She says that she will, but seems uncertain.
Titus has another nightmare. He dreams of
riots, pollution, and oppression. Violet wakes him up, having had the same dream or a similar one. Though Titus does not know it, Violet realizes that someone, most likely the Coalition of Pity, has been accessing her personal information. She calls FeedTech customer service, but is presented with an artificial intelligencethat is of little to no help.
Coca-Colaholds a promotionwhere free coke is awarded to people who talk about it to their friends a lot. Titus, Marty, Link, Calista, Loga, Quendy, and Violet all get together, planning to rip off the company by talking about coke for a number of hours. Calista, Loga, and Quendy show up in "riot gear:" clothing based on a twentieth century riot, including Kent State, the stonewall shootings, and the watts riot. Because Violet gives an intelligent comment on coke's carbonation, the other girls make fun of her. Ultimately, everyone ends up thirsty for coke, and leave to get some. Violet tells Titus to take her away, and Titus does so, grudgingly. On the way home, they fight in the car, and Violet tells Titus that her feed is severely malfunctioning, and she may well die. They reconcile, and go to Titus' house. Violet wants to experience many things before she dies. Titus and Violet go to the ocean, rendered poisonous by pollution. Various parts of Violet's body are shutting down periodically at this point.
The next day at school, Calista is seen to have got an artificial lesion, which Link finds very attractive. This angers Quendy greatly. She calls the lesion stupid. Titus tells Violet over the feed, and she reacts with disgust. Titus invites her to a party on Friday.Titus also reveals to Violet that Link is a genetic clone of
Abraham Lincoln, created as part of a secret patriotic experiment.
At the party, Titus and his friends are shocked to see Quendy, who has engaged in "birching," a process in which small artificial lesions are made all over the body. Titus and Violet are repulsed, Calista is angry, and Link and Marty both find it sexy. Violet is extremely disturbed by this, so Titus takes her upstairs to the attic where he once played Sardines as a child, and describes the feeling of walking through an empty house, knowing everyone is aware of your every move, though you do not know where they are. Violet interprets this is an analogy for the fall of America, and fells better, though Titus is unaware of the significance of what he has said. They return downstairs, where the others are playing
Spin the Bottle. Marty gets Violet, but before he can kiss her, Violet begins a tirade probably initiated by her deteriorating feed. She calls Quendy a monster, and criticizes Titus' friends for playing games while their skin is falling off. This fit ends when she collapses and is taken to the hospital.
At the hospital, Titus meets Violet's father again. He is shown a place where he can monitor Violet's feed efficiency, which would be at 98% for a normal person. Hers is at 52.9%, but goes up to 87.3% after she is treated. With few exceptions, the chapters from here to the end of the book are named whatever Violet's feed efficiency currently is. When Titus is allowed to see her, they have a rather awkward conversation, before Titus leaves.
In the aftermath of the malfunction, Violet loses one year of
memories: the year before she got the feed installed. To avoid losing more memories, she makes large records of things she can remember, and sends them to Titus. Titus does not watch them, and deletes them at the end of the day. Violet's body parts shut down more and more often. She and her father petitionFeedTech for free repairs. Quendy and Titus talk. Quendy has forgiven Violet, and tries to show Titus images of what is happening to her, but Titus does not look. Quendy takes Titus' hand.
Violet sends Titus a list of things she wants to do. The first few items represent things she would like to do with Titus, including dancing, going to the mountains, and visiting
Fort Wayne. After that, her list becomes more fantastical, describing an ideal life in which she does not have the feed and is actually from Fort Wayne. She wants to grow old and have grandchildren with Titus, retire by a lake, and have a dog named Thomas Paine. The second to last item may be an attack on Titus. In it, Violet says that she wants to not remember what will actually happen, which includes Titus standing by her bed, waiting until he has been there long enough to be a good person. Titus does listen to the whole thing, but not at once.
At Link's house, Titus, Marty, and Link decide to go into mal. Though Titus says he was in mal shortly before the book begins, this is the first time he has done it since meeting Violet, probably because Violet does not like mal. Somehow, the three end up at the
mall, and discuss Violet's list in a change room. Violet calls Titus, and is angry at him, particularly because he is unaware of the environmental disaster that happened that morning in Mexico. Though the details are never given, some sort of toxic waste seems to have engulfed a number of villages there, and the Global Alliance is prepared to go to war with the United States. Titus decides to drive to her house. As the mal wears off, he becomes sleepy. While he sleeps, Violet gives him further bad news in the form of a memory of that morning.
Violet's leg froze up as she was going downstairs, and she fell. At this time, Nina, from FeedTech appeared to respond to Violet's request for help. FeedTech decided not to help Violet because of her strange customer profile - something brought about by resisting the feed. Nina offered to go shopping with Violet to help her form a viable consumer profile, but Violet told her to fuck off.
That weekend, Violet comes to Titus' house to ask him to go to the mountains. He is reluctant at first, but ultimately agrees. Violet's father does not want her to see Titus anymore, so she is avoiding him. They stay at a cheap hotel. That evening, Violet tries to have sex with Titus, but Titus refuses, telling her that he keeps imagining her already dead. They criticize each other's lifestyles, and break up. On the way home, Violet's arm stops working and Titus considers apologizing, but does not. As Violet gets out of the car back home, her legs fail, and she falls over.
The next day, Violet apologizes to Titus over the Feed, but Titus does not answer. The summer as Titus sees it then unfolds. He and Quendy start going out, and he goes on a trip to
Iowith Link and Marty. However, the lesions get so bad that nobody has much skin anymore, and everyone's hair falls out. Marty gets a "speech tattoo" that forces him to say " Nike" every sentence. A glitch in the feed then causes people to freeze in place, something like Violet. Titus thinks of her for the first time in a while. For unexplained reasons, bees come out of the walls of people's suburbs and attack people aggressively. Finally, Titus's new car is no longer cool, which makes him feel "tired."
In the late summer, Titus' father returns from a
corporate getaway. He shows memories of the whaling expedition to his family, but cuts them short when he begins staring at a female co-worker's chest and getting sexual feelings. At this time, Titus receives a message from Violet's father saying that Violet wanted Titus to know when it was "all over," and that this time has come.
Titus goes to Violet's house where Violet is
comatoseand bedridden. Her father tells Titus stories of her decline intended to make Titus feel bad. He blames Titus, because it was he who took her to the Rumble Spot. Titus denies responsibility, saying that she wanted to live. In response, her father shows him memories of parts of her body and brain shutting down, the pain she experienced, and the reality of her current state of incontinence. He then tells Titus to be with the eloi. Titus asks what that means, and he tells him to look it up. They fight, and Titus goes home. In unbearable guilt and grief, he sits on his floor naked. When a banner adfor jeans comes on, Titus orders pair after pair until he has no money left at all.
Some time later, Titus goes to visit her again. He does not speak to her father, but tells her "stories" - little one-sentence bits of news and trivia that were all he was able to find in the vastness of the information available over the feed. Finally, he tells her the story of their relationship in the form of a movie trailer. The book ends with a commercial for the blue jean warehouse that ends with "everything must go."
Though Titus is largely unaware of it, the America of the book is rapidly collapsing, a decline that mirrors that of Violet. In some ways, Violet represents what the author believes America should stand for. Just as Violet does not quite die in the book (the last chapter being called 4.6%), it is never explicitly stated that America ends, though the damage, like the damage to Violet, is likely completely unrepairable. The world may also end as a result of America's actions, with the severe damage to the health of the general population and enormous ecological disasters. Meanwhile, Titus, the consumer, and Anderson's image of what America is becoming ignores and distances himself from Violet to avoid hearing what she has to say. The book ends on a very pessimistic note.
M.T. Anderson presents the novel in a
first-person narrativethrough Titus. Titus's perspective plays a significant role in implicitly explaining the conditions of society—he speaks in the contemporary vernacular, and expresses apathy towards the political events occurring around him, and detests learning anything more in school than he has to. This is contrasted by Violet's apparent concern of current events and curiosity of history and other cultures. It also allows the reader to see how the Feed affects Titus's thoughts, in a parody of the modern media and commercial marketing to teens of today. Profanity is used freely, even by older characters like Steve or the President.In addition, the story's narrative is often interrupted with the text of commercials for consumer products, Feedcasts, and other such things. In fact, the book ends with a rather ominous ad for a denim store. This element adds texture to the book, as well as being a reminder of the nature of Titus' commercial-riddled life.
Marxist Critical Theory in "Feed"
Violet’s father is in the academic field, yet grossly underpaid. (After all, Violet didn’t get the feed until she was six years old, when more than 70% of the population has the feed and has the feed implanted into their children as infants.) Anderson seems to be commenting here on the widely known fact that teachers are far too often underappreciated and underpaid.
The feed clearly appeals to wealthy individuals, yet also to the middle or upper-middle class that desire material wealth and have an insatiable need for “more, more, more.” Anderson asserts through Feed that a place in material values could forsake our own individual characteristics that make us unique, as well as the ability to think for ourselves. Those like Violet and her father that resist the feed appear to be more intellectual (or at least place more intellectual importance) than the general population. Rather than becoming practically illiterate, Violet’s father speaks in metaphors that Titus cannot understand. After all, Titus has never had to understand; he can access the feed at any time and look up absolutely anything he ever needs to know.
Feminist Critical Theory in "Feed"
The female characters in Anderson's novel are portrayed in an even more egotistical way than famous celebrities are portrayed today. Their obsession with the way their hair looks is just a start. They are constantly changing their hair in drastic ways so as to look cool. Also, their style of clothing changes depending on what others are wearing. Much like women in today's society, it is seen as something that only women do. They want to look good to impress others and they are constantly obsessed with their appearance. Link is described as incredibly ugly, yet there is never any talk of him trying to improve his appearance. It is assumed that appearance does not matter to men, simply women, and Anderson does a good job of carrying this notion to his characters.
Another emphasis of feminism is the cliquish nature of girls. Titus is quick to accept Violet and is willing to bring her around his frinds. She is mostly accepted by the other boys, though they think she is a little off. Yet Quendy and Calista ignore her and ridicule her. They want nothing to do with her since she is not a part of their group. Women are stereotyped to be cliquish and unaccepting of new females into an already established group. Again, Anderson carries this idea over in the portrayal of his futuristic characters.
Awards and nominations
2002 National Book Awardfor Young People's Literature [http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2002_pr.html]
2003 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awardfor Fiction [http://www.hbook.com/bghb2003.shtml]
2003 Golden Duck Awards Hal ClementAward for Young Adults [http://www.goldenduck.org/winners.php]
2005- 2006 Green Mountain Book Award[http://dol.state.vt.us/gopher_root5/libraries/gmba/GMBAMASTERLISTCLR2005.HTM]
* Elizabeth Bullen and Elizabeth Parsons, "Dystopian Visions of Global Capitalism: Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines and M.T. Anderson's Feed", Children's Literature in Education, published online 7 March 2007
* [http://books.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/07/27/1614215&tid=214&tid=192 Slashdot]
* Violet's father briefly mentions the Eloi of H. G. Wells's The Time Machine
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