Two Books Called Feed

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In M.T. Anderson’s Feed, the future is a place where 73% of Americans have “feeds” embedded into their brains, which allow personalized advertisements and entertainment to reach directly into the brain. School™ is run by corporations and primarily teaches kids how to use their feeds. Titus, our narrator and main character, doesn’t read or do a lot of thinking for himself.

They had built a pretty nice stucco mall there, so Loga and Quendy said we should go in and buy some cool stuff to go out in. That seemed good to us. I wanted to buy some things but I didn’t know what they were.

In Mira Grant’s Feed, the world is twenty-some years past the start of the Rising – in which a medical advance gone wrong means that everyone on earth has the potential to become a zombie, either through contact with a zombie or via the virus that lies dormant in everyone. On the plus side, cancer has been cured, so the cigarette companies are back on top. Georgia, our narrator and main character, is a blogger following the 2040 presidential campaign.

I’ve encountered his type before, usually at political protests. They’re the sort who would rather we paved the world and shot the sick, instead of risking life being unpredictable and potentially risky. In another time, they were anti-Semitic, antiblack, antiwomen’s liberation, anti-gay, or all of the above. Now, they’re antizombie in the most extreme way possible, and they use their extremity to claim that the rest of us are somehow supporting the “undead agenda.”

In Anderson’s Feed, the world – as experienced by Titus – is reduced to unchecked, all-encompassing consumerism.

It smelled like the country. It was a filet mignon farm, all of it, and the tissue spread for miles around the paths where we were walking. It was like these huge hedges of red all around us, with these beautiful marble patterns running through them. They had these tubes, they were bring the tissue blood, and we could see the blood running around, up and down. It was really interesting. I like to see how things are made, and to understand where they come from.

In Grant’s Feed, the world – as described by Georgia – is reduced to living in constant fear. While (non-implanted) internet feeds are still full of “porn, music download, and movie tie-in sites,” Georgia and her readers rely on her words.

My material rarely depends on graphics. I don’t need to concern myself with camera angles, lighting, or whether the footage I use gets my point across. At the same time, they say a pictures is worth a thousand words, and in today’s era of instant gratification and high-speed answers, sometimes people aren’t willing to deal with all those hard words when a few pictures supposedly do the job just as well. It’s harder to sell people on a report that’s just news without pictures or movies to soften the blow. I have to find the heart of every subject as fast as I can, pin it down on the page, and then cut it wide open for the audience to see.

These two futures are both terrifying – and Anderson and Grant both include just enough details that you could almost see either of them playing out. I don’t want to live in either of these futures, but if I had to choose, I’d probably opt for the zombies and maintaining control of my brain.

Grant’s Feed is book one of a triology, and you better believe that I’ll be reading two and three soon. Unless the zombies get me first.

Anderson’s Feed is all the more remarkable when you realize it was published in 2002. So basically, M.T. Anderson invented Facebook, eh? Also, perhaps my favorite moment in this book is when the kids start showing up in Riot Gear, as a fashion statement: “it’s retro. It’s beat up to look like one of the big twentieth-century riots. It’s been big since earlier this week.” This includes, I kid you not, one of the girls asking another, “Kent State collection, right?” It’s like Anderson predicted this infamous clothing item from 2014.

Resist the feed.