Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Book Review: Feed by MT Anderson

Customer profiling is very important to marketers because it allows them to create targeted offers that increase ROI. If you run a TV spot during prime time, you have no way of measuring how many consumers you are actually reaching with your advertising message. But over the Internet, marketers can track your consumer behavior and adjust its offerings to you accordingly. If you have a mobile phone equipped with GPS, marketers know where you are and can send you offers for the McDonald’s you are passing by, or the J Crew down the street.

Now take this current situation, slide down a long slippery slope and you land in the world of Feed – a place where marketers have refined their consumer profiling by convincing over 70% of the population to implant a Feed into their brain. The Feed is supposed to make everything easier – learning, communicating (you can mentally “chat” with others) and especially consuming. As a citizen of this dystopian society (there are no forests left, the seas are completely polluted and hair falls out in clumps - which may explain the cover), you are bombarded night and day with offers tailored precisely to your proclivities. Education is through sound bites, mutilating your body by getting lesions is hip, and no one seems to pay much attention to that fact that the world is at the brink of total war.

The main character, Titus, meets Violet one day during a “boring” escapade to the moon that ends in Titus and his friends getting their feeds hacked by a wacko. Titus and Violet embark on a tentative romance and Titus discovers that Violet is not like him and his friends (she got her Feed at 7 while the others got theirs at birth) and has some radical ideas. The book summary says that Violet “fights the feed” which may make you think that she eventually takes down the dystopian devils. Not to be too spoilerish, but this story is much narrower in scope than a society takedown. In fact, to me it read more like a short story than a novel. It’s not just that I read it in under 2 hours, it’s also that the characters all seem very superficial (I guess this was intentional) and the plot is fairly uneventful for such a long book. But that’s not to say I didn’t like it – the language is very clever throughout and the themes are thought provoking and timely. A chilling read, and especially recommended for marketers and dystopia fans.


Anonymous said...

These are extraordinary reviews, Lenore. Really good to know such a mind as yours is out there reading.

And in Frankfurt, too!


Lisa said...

You read a 320 page book in 2 hours! I'm impressed. If I could read that fast I could make a serious dent in my book backlog. I read at a much more leisurely pace; most of the time I prefer that, but sometimes I would like to be able to just zip through something.

Marie Cloutier said...

Hi! You've been tagged! Now you get to do one of those fun meme things. If you want!

Anonymous said...

Seems there are many distopian novels out there lately. The end of the world feels near.

Hope you don't mind if I tagged you for a meme: Six Random Things About Yourself. Have fun!

Jeanne said...

I read and loved this book when it first came out, and taught it one quarter soon after that in my freshman-level class (college). This fall I decided to teach it again, to see if the students' perspective on it had changed. Not significantly.

Audrey (holes In My brain) said...

I couldn't connect with the characters or the writing (when I wasn't wanting to strangle Titus, that is), dunno, just not the book for me I guess. You wrote an excellent review though