One of the cool things about FEED by M.T. Anderson is that it gives you a sense of the character and setting from the opening line.  The opening line of FEED:

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

Is that an awesome opening line or what?  It does three very cool things in one easy sentence.

1. It tells you we’re set somewhere in the future.  Probably the pretty far future since going to the moon for the weekend is an option and because people are already bored with this type of getaway.

2. It suggests that the protagonist is a teen (because of the slang).

3. I’ll get to this more in the plotting of the story, but it introduces the question–in the first line, might I add–of Why does the moon suck?

The setting is a sneaky thing in this book.  You get statements like the one above.  Mr. Anderson never explicitly says, “The year is 2200 and interplanetary travel is a commonplace reality.”  What you do get is hints and suggestions.  The author mentions that a couple of hundred years ago, computers used to exist outside the body.  He mentions that lo-gravity is pretty lame these days.  People fly cars through tubes.  You get a feel for the very odd setting without any big paragraphs of world-building exposition.

As the book goes on, particularly in the last half of the story, you start getting some of the more sinister aspects of this world in a more explicit way.  The trademarked Clouds over the enclosed Earth.  The suggestion that nothing lives in the ocean anymore and that lakes steam.  A beef farm where slabs of meat are grown and where our two lovebirds spend a romantic afternoon (I kid you not.  It was pretty gooey.).  To find these scraps of setting, I practically had to skim the whole book all over again.  Yet I had a very complete mental picture of what this world should look like.  And for that, I say bravo to Mr. Anderson.

As far as the setting goes, most of it is pretty unfamiliar.  So the author grounds you in the predictable way that people act.

Titus, the main character, and his friends are the somewhat spoiled children of upper middle class families.  They want whatever is the next coolest thing–and with ads flashing through their heads and a fairly bloated bank account, they can have what they want.  Drugs (malfunctioning or “mal”) are easy.  They get them through their feed.  Clothes, toys, games–everything can be found and ordered through the feed.  As a result, all the teens seem a little bored.  And very, very familiar.

Likewise for the parents.  They’re disconnected from their kids.  Kids go to the moon for an unsupervised weekend.  They have parties where drug use is happening in the back.  Kids do strange body mutilations without any input from their parents.  It’s easier for Titus’s parents to buy him a car after his feed is hacked, than talk to him about the experience.  The idea of parents buying things for their children as a substitute for time and interest is also very familiar.

And then there’s Violet, Titus’s love interest.  She’s smart.  She’s been somewhat traditionally educated by her father.  She knows how to write  and she has political views.  She’s dear to her father.  She didn’t get her feed until she was seven and remembers life without it.  And what’s lovely, too, is that her name reflects what she is: a delicate throwback to a more natural time.  In a world of consumers, she’s strange and, in a way, FEED is as much her story as it is Titus’s.

Next time, I’ll tackle the plotting in FEED.  The structure of the book is interesting.  I feel like there’s a compelling question at the beginning and another about 2/3 of the way through, but what I need to puzzle out is what motivated me through the middle of the book.

Kate

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