Synopsis: A young couple, Tom and Kate, are having dinner at a restaurant. They and everyone else in the developed world possess the Feed, an augmented form of social media that allows access to all knowledge. Tom and Kate’s evening is ruined when they discover through the Feed that the president of America has been assassinated. This tips the world into chaos. Several years later the couple are living a primitive existence in a world where the Feed no longer exists and civilisation has collapsed because of it.
When Tom and two other members of their camp go on a mission to salvage fuel from a facility Graham, one of their number, shoots and kills a man. This causes their camp to be attacked and Tom and Kate’s daughter, Bea, to be taken. Tom and Kate are separated and meet up again in the facility. Tom vows to find Bea again but Kate has sustained a wound to her leg that has become infected. The two lovers journey to find the fabled Pharmacist, who can heal Kate.
Since society collapsed people have been waking from sleep as different people, who go on to murder those around them. This happens to Kate at the Pharmacist’s surgery, who becomes Sylene. After her pretence is discovered by Tom he pleads with her to come with him as she is carrying his child. Tom and Sylene journey to the homeHub in the centre of the city where Tom breaks down and decides to send his mind back into the past. Sylene restores Kate to her body and the book ends with an idyllic scene set six years later where Tom and Kate lead simple lives with their children.
Review: This is a very dark yet ultimately hopeful book. The rampant excesses of technology are strongly criticised throughout, with a simple, basic life promoted as better for humanity. Quite shocking is everyone but Graham and Jane being unable to read because the Feed streamed information to them. A wide generation gap is shown between Danny and Graham, with the former having had the Feed since birth and the latter refusing it.
Danny’s childishness and lack of awareness of danger is implied to be a result of this. There are some excellent human moments throughout this book.
One of particular note is when Bea asks Tom why the camp members watch each other while they sleep. Tom’s desire to protect his daughter’s innocence contrasted with the grim reality they face is wonderfully portrayed by Nick Clark Windo.
I thought the way the author drip feeds information about the characters and the world through flashbacks is very skilfully done.
My one criticism is that after Tom works out that Sylene is in Kate’s body he seems to forgive her too easily. It felt like this was done for narrative convenience although earlier the Pharmacist was shown to be one of the taken and non violent so perhaps this is why Tom came to trust Sylene so readily.
The concept of the taken is a clever one that preys on adult fears. What if a stranger moved in behind your loved one’s face? The fear and uncertainty of this is delivered very well. On a positive note the taken are shown to be no more evil than anyone else in the book perhaps to imply that humanity is the source of all its problems as well as the solution.
Nick Clark Windo weaves tiny moments of hope and humanity throughout the bleakness of the novel in a skilful way. Technology that humans can manage is shown in a positive light with the telescope at the end as well as being a metaphor for looking closely at the future and what is far away.
Overall, an excellently written, grim, yet hopeful book. The Feed is out on January 25th 2018.