This audiobook was quite an experience!
Summary via Audible.com:
Titus’ ability to read, write and even think for himself has been almost completely obliterated by his “feed”, a transmitter implanted directly into his brain. Feeds are a crucial part of life for Titus and his friends. After all, how else would they know where to party on the moon, how to get bargains at Weatherbee & Crotch or how to accessorize the mysterious lesions everyone’s been getting? But then Titus meets Violet, a girl who cares about what’s happening to the world and challenges everything Titus and his friends hold dear. A girl who decides to fight the feed.
Feed clearly extrapolates trends in our current society, both technological and societal, and sets up a frightening vision of where we are heading.
In addition to the Internet-style Feed directly to the brain, there were schools run by Schools Inc., since the government didn’t want to pay enough money to keep running the schools themselves, and besides, the old-style schools didn’t teach anything useful or interesting anyway.
The US government that seems to be uniting the rest of the world against it, and the US population isn’t really playing attention, whether by their own choice, or by the choice of those that run the Feed, I’m not really certain.
All of this in a book published in 2002– we don’t seem to be changing course away from any of this.
The world built in the book had amazing breadth, but didn’t present the same depth. I think this was a deliberate choice on the part of the author, to emphasize the aspects that tie into the points the author was making. I suspect that if the novel had not been targeted at a YA audience, more of this would have been presented in the book. I was left with a number of questions, but none that were important to the characters, events and messages of this book.
I have only one quibble with the Feed world, and that’s that I think the Feed technology would have been established long before society reached the point where shuttles between the Earth, the Moon, and various planets were common. That’s a minor thing, however, and overall, the world here was fascinating.
I had the same problem with Titus that I often have with young male leads in YA books. He was a little to realistic, and I often got annoyed with him. The relationship that Titus has with his group of friends (and they have with each other) is fairly shallow, and that’s the its supposed to be. Titus was a deeper character than his friends (a scary thought), but for much of the book, he’s primarily focused on the pursuit of fun.
It was the outsider character of Violet that introduced him to an alternative way of looking at the world, and made the book work for me.
Violet introduces Titus to a new way of looking at the world, and at the Feed. She also challenges him on a more personal level– a challenge that he finds even more intimidating than the more intellectual questions she pushes him with.
The book is also funny (although often cringe inducing as well, such as the fashions for decorating the skin lesions that are mysteriously appearing on everyone, or the beef farm, with the hedge maze made of cultivated filet mignon). The slang is both catchy and funny.
Narrator: David Aaron Baker did an amazing job. He showed the life Titus was living at the beginning and at times throughout the book, a life fully dedicated to having fun and going along with his friends and The Feed. He really excelled when Titus was actually asking the questions, and questioning what was happening around him.
The Production: Wow. It really brought the Feed to life, including music and sound effects for the flood of messages flowing constantly flowing through. Feed chat messages were more lightly processed. Luckily, all this was presented judiciously– I could easily have been overwhelmed (and for the first 30 minutes, I was, by the story and the production of it), but it settled down to a level I could appreciate.
Print vs. Audio: I really feel like the audio added to the book to the point of making them hard to compare. I simply can’t imagine the straight print, even after flipping through someone else’s copy of the book.
Book Club Notes
I read Feed with one of my book clubs. I was sick, and almost missed the meeting, but decided I really wanted to be there, and I was past the contagious stage. I wasn’t at full power, however, and my notes here may reflect that.
All 5 of us enjoyed the book, although the first bit had several of us worried.
We spent time on the plausibility of the world (high), and on the current trends being extended. We were particularly impressed given the age of the book.
We talked about the characters (we all liked Violet’s father) and we talked about where the names came from.
We looked at the lives of various characters, and talked about who we didn’t see reflected in the book, and about how the society functioned.
Overall, I think it made a good choice for our book club.