Thursday, September 26, 2013

Is banning dystopian literature a dystopian act?

 Feed by MT Anderson
Review by Kelsey Abney

We Americans are interested only in the consumption of our products. We have no interest in how they are produced, or what happens to them once we discard them, once we throw them away.” 
― One of the many quotes scattered throughout T. M. Anderson's cyberpunk dystopian novel, which sounds like it could have been uttered in vain last week. Much as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 were intended to stir those who read them away from the dystopian path that each of the authors forecasted, Feed strives to do the same through the depiction of an unnamed future America in which the feednet dominates how human beings live their lives.

Feednet is the ultimate integration of the human brain and one's own portable computer. Completely voluntary, but why wouldn't you want one? 73% of Americans have it, and in order to get a job, have a reliable consumer profile, or even contact people in some ways, they need to have a feed hooked to their brain. The feed enables a large amount of computer data to be processed within a persons brain, so they can speak with each other telepathically, purchase whatever they want to, take pictures whenever convenient.... with the one contention that you will be continuously advertised to. It's clear in the beginning of the book that the corporations are who is in control. Everything from public school to the clouds have been Trademarked, and in order to do anything, you have to establish a reliable consumer history with the corporations who own Feednet.

As a 21st century consumer, this makes several things unsettling. Trends such as targeted advertisements on Facebook and Google glass reinforce these fears. As far as literary tropes go, the novel's protagonist, Titus, fulfills many of the major stereotypes we expect for the genre. He is a middle class male who is awakened by the mysterious “other”, usually a female or foreigner, who is more capable of constructively criticizing the society. While this trope is common, it does not defeat the genre's purpose, which is to make us entirely unsettled as we unconsciously long onto Facebook every single time we open our computer. 

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