Review: FEED by M.T. Anderson

I finished reading FEED by M.T. Anderson this weekend, so now I'm going to talk about it.  (I did not talk about it in the paper I was assigned to write about it, because it was due Monday, I finished reading it Sunday, and this book gets sad.) After the fold, there will be spoilers.  As a consolation, before the fold, there will be a video in which John Green hangs out with M.T. Anderson in abandoned buildings.

Oh my god this book got so sad.

As a general rule of thumb, I prefer what I would describe as Aspirational fiction; fiction that depicts a better possible world, whose main characters act the way one hopes one would in a difficult time.  Cory Doctorow's books are often aspirational, featuring characters who fight against the injustices they see in the world.  In the same way, I think 1984 was aspirational -- Winston is the highest standard of moral and intellectual integrity one could expect to see in a world like the world of IngSoc in the year 1984.

FEED is not aspirational. The best character in FEED is a mildly emotionally manipulative teenager, who utterly fails to make any substantial change in the world, and who, by the end, slowly dies, literally killed by the feed.  The next-best character, the viewpoint character, is just-barely-above consciousness in the fugue state of consumerism the feed seeks to produce.  He has the potential to take a moral stand, and try, at least a little bit, to value the life of another human above his own immediate comfort, but he fails.  It's understandable that he fails.  He lives in a setting that is, in every way, stacked against him.  But his failure is a failure to try, unlike Winston's failure to overcome the obstacles in 1984.

FEED does, to be fair, take place in the grimmest possible future for humanity, and it couldn't possibly be that grim if people like Titus were capable of overcoming the seduction of short-term pleasure.  Fortunately, in the real world, when things start to look like they're going that direction, people like M.T. Anderson write books like FEED and warn us away from the existential cliffs.

This is a really, really god book, and I think it's also an important book.  I'm glad I was made to read it.  But, seriously, I can't imagine deliberately inflicting the last quarter of this book on someone else without at least warning them first.