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Courtesy of Harper Collins Publishers

March 21, 2018

A Disconnect in The Feed

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In a period often referred to as the “information age,” the notion of technological addiction is a fairly pervasive reality, and very much a hot topic of conversation. Written for an audience primed with various science-fiction films and novels about this idea, the expectations for The Feed, Nick Clark Windo’s debut novel, were high. With a title that overtly references the main aspect of popular social media: one’s facebook feed, twitter feed, instagram feed, etc., there was a sense of relevancy to the novel that was almost immediately debunked by the end of chapter one. The novel evoked commentary similar to that of Dave Eggers’s novel The Circle (2013) in an atmosphere of mass-death and suspect forces akin to Oryx and Crake (2003) by Margaret Atwood. However, the execution of The Feed lacked the subtlety and mind-warping prose that allowed for the success of its forebears.

The “Feed” is a kind of brain-linking device implanted into the modern mind. It emcompasses everything from deliving news directly to one’s consciousness to tuning into other people’s thoughts and desires. Demonstrated in the lives of protagonists Tom and Kate, The Feed has become an integral part of everyone’s lives, and there is a growing dependency on it. In the opening chapter, Kate struggles to slip out of her Feed, so to speak, but tunes out to appease her husband. Through Kate, Windo accurately captures the itch of being disconnected from one’s phone and the demand for constant streams of information. This sense of disconnect mirrors the growing disconnect between people in the modern world that Tom is concerned about. He is vocal about the way he, Kate and the rest of the population has grown completely disassociated from one another. He remarks the fact that people have forgotten how to perform simple human interactions and displays a resentment for the social consequences of the Feed, his own father’s invention. Nonetheless, Tom’s observations are correct. Kate feels restless without the constant stream of information propagating through her brainwaves. In one instance, their waiter struggles to take their order without immediately knowing what they want via their Feed. Humanity, in Windo’s world, is practically helpless.

When the Feed collapses, society is left without the ability to socialize or interact with itself, and Windo’s thriller crescendos into a post-apocalyptic novel with rampant crime and death. There is a new vapidness to the human person overridden by its dependence on technology that is certainly relevant to the reader, but hyperbolic in The Feed. While this kind of exaggeration is typical of science-fiction, there is a heavy-handedness to Windo’s prose that undermines the drama of the plot. The novel’s redeeming quality, however, is the way that Windo delivers intimate narratives of his characters to convey the intricacies of the failure of human interaction. The pain of losing a family member or the struggle to survive is certainly intensified if the reader is invested in the novel’s characters. However, while the premise had the potential to comment on the current state of human dependence on technology, the frequent twists and turns of the plot diluted this message. Ultimately the novel did not so much engage the reader as much as it seemed to pull from too many different post-apocalyptic themes. Had the plot been more linear, the realities of humanity’s addictive relationship to technology would have been more compelling.

Victoria Horrocks is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at vrh23@cornell.edu