MT Anderson

Candlewick Press (2002)

ISBN: 978 0 7636 2259 6

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

American writer MT Anderson’s Feed is a remarkable story. Set in the dying years of a planet earth stripped of its natural resources, it traces a brief few months of a group of teenagers as seen through the first person viewpoint of Titus.

The story begins on a frat visit to the moon, where the teen friends try to grab underage thrills. Titus becomes enraptured with Violet, an enigmatic teenager whose home schooling has given her an altogether different view of their lifestyle.

Titus and his mates are über consumers, linked into an all pervasive feed through neural nets. They can barely take a breath without being bombarded by advertisements for goods recommended based on buying patterns. They are a vacuous bunch, ignorant thanks in part to corporatised education of history or politics, either present or past, with little to no awareness of current events outside the latest fashion trends. Even the lesions slowly eating their flesh are turned into fashion statements rather than warnings of a world on its last legs; one in which the environment is so toxic everyone lives in climate controlled bubbles.

On the moon, the children are hit by an eco-terrorist who hacks their feeds, knocking them offline. For Violet, this proves to be disastrous. She received her feed late in childhood, and the cost of getting her damaged wetware repaired is massive, even though to not do so may be fatal.

Titus is suddenly struck, for the first time in his life, with a serious situation – a sick girlfriend, and one who challenges his worldview, who makes him look outside his bubble.

It’s a stunning characters study in a story without villains and heroes, just people trying to deal. It has a lot to say about our media-based, consumer-focused society, and the dangers of insular political and social thinking, and says it with uncommon subtlety. We may not like Titus’s attitude and responses to Violet’s illness, but we understand why he acts the way he does.

And the ending… Oh, the ending. Superbly written, cleverly typeset, not easily forgotten.