Friday, April 20, 2007

Everything Must Go

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

The first line of Feed by M.T. Anderson perfectly conveys the attitude and ignorance of the protagonist, but it also hints at the book’s futuristic setting, when teens can just hang out on the moon and be bored. Feed is a dystopian nightmare, where the majority of Americans are wired internally at birth and receive the “feed” nonstop. They are monitored by corporations, receive advertisements, tune into idiotic shows, chat each other, go to SchoolTM, and malfunction purposefully to induce a drug-like trip.

Like he did in The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Anderson deftly shapes the voice of his first-person narrator. In this case, Titus appears to be Octavian’s polar opposite. He has an ordinary suburban family, plenty of money, a disgraceful education, and the dialect of a moron. He is often superficial, petty, and selfish and on occasion cruel. In other words, he’s a typical adolescent. However, like Octavian, Titus is the victim of his world and essentially a slave to his feed. His life changes when he meets the intelligent and articulate Violet, a teen who has been homeschooled by her poor, old-fashioned professor father.

Feed is heavy with Anderson’s aversion to capitalism, neo-colonialism, and environmental destruction. The scene where the young couple goes out to the treeless country to wander around a filet mignon farm and frolic in the meat maze is truly disgusting. I’m skeptical of this hellscape stemming from anti-capitalist dogma, but overall I felt that Anderson’s primary message (thinking for yourself is more important than heedless consumption) is a valuable lesson to young readers. Besides, it’s such a well-crafted world and story that I easily absorbed it.

This book is marketed to young adults, but there’s a lot of language and some mild sexual references. It’s far cleaner than the language I heard daily when I was in high school, so I don’t see any reason why a teen shouldn’t read it.

My question to you readers is this: Can you think of a story set in the future that isn't a dystopian nightmare? All Ickie could think of was Star Trek, although I side with Douglas Adams in doubting a spaceship could make a proper cup of tea, and that amounts to a dystopian nightmare for some of us.

1 comment:

Ickenham said...

"Dystopian nightmare" is probably too strong. Pretty much all scifi has conflict, but that's b/c pretty much all STORIES have conflict. But lots of scifi stories aren't about a dystopia. Battlestar Galactica is grim, but I wouldn't call it dystopia.

My hunch, though, is that there is greater pessimism about the future in SciFi movies than in SciFi books. But I can't think of anything--book or film--that is more optimistic than the Star Trek mythos.

Of course, by SciFi, I don't mean the cable channel.