Friday, December 2, 2011

Book Recommendation: Feed, by M.T. Anderson

Go read this book. Right now.

Let's play a game. What was the last dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel you read this year? Think about that book. What does that book say about society? Do you agree with this? Is there any chance that the grim future predicted in that book could ever come to life?

With this book, the answer is "yes." And it scares the fucking hell out of me.

In Titus' world, everyone (read: everyone who can afford it) has their brain wired to the Internet (called the Feed). They are bombarded with advertisements every day and they have no need to actually learn anything since they can just look it up.

Do you have friends who constantly text or play with their iPhone while talking to you? Now imagine that that's your entire generation, including you. Imagine a generation of chronically bored teenagers who go to the moon, not because they want to see the moon, but because they have nothing better to do. Imagine teenagers who use "da da da" (blah, blah, blah) as part of their everyday mental vocabulary because they lack the attention span for a real conversation. Imagine teenagers who have all but no notion that there is a world around them. That is the generation that M.T. Anderson paints.

This book is both satire and tragedy. And it hits so close to home. It reminds me of my friends in college who spent basically all of their waking hours in front of the internet. It reminds me of my niece and nephew, who would rather play chess on the iPad than on a real gameboard. It reminds me of the children I baby-sit--their parents specifically want me there to make sure that the kids don't spend all their after-school hours in front of a TV or computer. It reminds me of my brother and sister-in-law in San Francisco, who won't let their kids anywhere near technology because this is exactly what they want to prevent.

Titus is a victim of all this, and this is exactly what makes this book great. He isn't a hero or revolutionary. He's a first-hand look at how fucked up everything is. He's a teenager who doesn't know how to question things. When he says he feels stupid, it's because he is ignorant. He doesn't think about how the world is going to hell, even when evidence of this is thrown in his face. And when serious problems like death loom in front of him, his response is to run away, because he has no fucking clue how to deal with anything of that magnitude.

Spoiler in white: Has anyone but me noticed how the lesions make people look like zombies? Coincidence? I don't think so.

If you are going to read any book this year, it should be this one. Go read it. Now.

ETA: Holy shit, I just realized that this book came out in 2002. That's even before iPhones, text messaging, and Wifi in every cafe. Talk about scary premonitions.

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