Author: M.T. Anderson
Publication Date: 2/23/04
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Blurb (B & N):
Brave New World takes a romantic teen twist in this disarming, engrossing novel set in a hyper-computerized future.
Spending time partying on the moon and riding around in his "upcar," Titus is an average teen of the future, complete with a computer chip implant -- the "Feed" -- that lets corporate marketers and government agencies broadcast directly into his brain. Then Titus meets Violet, and an anti-Feed hacker shuts down their Feeds for a short time; but when Violet's Feed is seriously damaged, she begins spouting some radical ideas.
M. T. Anderson has predicted the future, and it's startling indeed. Although Titus is a good, well-meaning kid, his blissful ignorance of the control over him leaves readers thinking twice about the destiny of earth's citizens. Beneath the book's techno-veneer, however, lies a romantic tale between a boy who gives into the system and a girl who sees beyond it. All told, Feed is a "meg" remarkable work of science fiction, and once readers begin, they'll be caught up in its powerful grip.
While I’m sitting here writing this review, a Seattle Groupon advertisement is trying to get me to buy nachos with some amazingly tasty-looking picture in my sidebar. Now I really want some nachos. I just turned on the television and the advertisements while I’m perusing the OnDemand selections (because who can be bothered to watch television in real time these days?) made me want to watch The Fighter again. But I’m not going to! (I’m going to watch Clueless, duh) My mom told me today that Bath & Body Works is bringing back Copa Cabana scented lotion so I just bought lots of it online. (It was Buy 3, get 2 free!! OMGZZ!) We are sick. Our entire consumer-based society makes me ill but I am a willing participant in a lot of it.
This book is set in a (plausible?) future wherein our consumer desires have taken over. Corporations rule the roost, run the schools, and implant wetware into humans so people can research online without having to do any work, receive targeted ads and shop 24/7, and chat their friends without, you know, having to move their lips. There isn’t an incentive to learn anything because your feed can just tell you what you need to know. It’s soooo MEG! Titus and his friends do all sorts of unit things like frag around in clubs on the moon, wear whatever the hip new style of clothing is (I actually laughed out loud at the conversation about the geriatric chic clothing—canes, walkers, muumuus—and the riotware—the “Kent State Collection”), and go mal (malfunction) which is the equivalent of getting f*&ked up. No one seems to give a second thought to the system they are a part of--save a few people. Titus meets Violet on the shuttle to the moon and she got her feed later than most. Because her parents are academics she still has a lot of experience reading actual books, speaking (in the air as opposed to chatspeak), and philosophizing. She, arguably foolishly, tries to get Titus and his friends to actually think about what their consumptive lifestyle means in the larger scale of things. It was frustrating to listen to his friends let her inquiries about their knowledge of worldwide riots, mass killings, deforestation, etc. just slide off them—they just called her pretentious and said she was on the lookout for any sign of the decline of civilization. Sigh.
This aspect of the book, actually thinking about the effects of disposable culture and (over)consumption really struck home for me. I am fascinated by attempts to create closed-loop manufacturing systems. (ideally, a circle from raw materials through to end product in which little to nothing is wasted and byproducts may be used rather than disposed of) and the entire seven generation sustainability concept. (making our ecological decisions based on their effect seven generations ahead). But do I get ecstatic thinking about new video games coming out? Yes, I totally do. Can our individual environmental choices actually effectively change anything? Is our only choice to either watch our entire world deplete its resources at a disgusting rate oroverthrow it all and start anew? Even at the end of this book, though it ends on a semi-hopeful note, I was still depressed. The types of people who would probably benefit the most from reading a satire like this will never read it.
While I feel like this book was successful at making me think a lot about our current society and its possible devolution into something even more corporate than it already is, I don’t know if this book is as successful as it could’ve been. I thought Unwind was so fascinating because it brought up tons of societal issues while still having an engaging plot. Here, I was only passively interested in what was going on in the story. Which brings me to the audiobook—awesome. The audiobook is narrated by one man but the feed portions are actually done by a cast and it sounds completely real. You hear all sorts of crazy commercials and advertisements just like you are actually experiencing the feed. I really don’t think I would’ve enjoyed this one as much in book form—maybe 3 stars—but the audiobook popped it up to a 4.