(2018) Nick Clark Windo, Headline, £12.99, hrdbk, 352pp, ISBN 978-4-722-34190-0
“What will you do without it? Your knowledge. Your memories. Your dreams. If all that you are is on the Feed, who are you when the Feed goes down?”
Already the subject of a bidding war in the UK and the USA and other parts of the world, and with the TV rights already snapped up, Nick Clark Windo’s The Feed promises to be a major publication event in early 2018, positing a future where 'The Feed' is everywhere and everyone is connected to it: interactions and emotions can be shared, everyone can experience, everything. You are never alone, and with a back-up facility, your mind/consciousness/soul can never die, while your body is perhaps long buried.
Tom sees the dangers of The Feed, he has got good reason too, and he is trying to wean his pregnant wife Kate off it, but she is addicted, with two hundred million followers for her last poll. How can she beat that? They go for a meal, a simple thing, but not so simple. They want a real menu, something to hold, they actually want to order food, using that old-time thing called speech. The waiter can hardly believe it, and he can hardly talk anyway. Who talks these days? To the other patrons in the restaurant he looks different from his real self, the one that the off-Feed Tom and Kate can see. He is projecting another physical body through the Feed, like a skin a computer game character might wear, and while they argue and wait for their food something is happening on the Feed, they can tell by the reaction of the other diners and the waiter and they jump back in to see President Taylor being assassinated and then the Government takes over the Feed telling everyone to go home, there is a curfew, go home, there is a curfew, go home, there is…
Only fifteen pages into the novel, six years have passed since the Collapse and Tom and Guy are on a mission to find something that might make life better for those living back at their camp. As the word “collapse” infers, things have clearly taken a drastic turn for the worst, but they become even darker when it becomes clear that Tom and Guy can’t go to sleep at the same time. One must sleep while the other one stays awake, and not because of some external threat. Something happens to Guy when he is sleeping and Tom has to kill him. This is the new world where sleep can bring possession, by what? No-one is sure, but murder and mayhem follows. Those that had the Feed can barely function, as they were so addicted to it, and those that had the Feed can lose their minds when they sleep and become one of the Taken. The technological world that everyone took for granted has come crashing down and life is a struggle. Tom and Kate and their daughter Bea life in a camp with a few others, but food is scarce and they have hopes they might be able to connect to a turbine and bring power to the camp. Tom sees a future there, Kate thinks it is too precarious and they should move on, but as the camp is raided and Bea is snatched, they have no choice but to leave and try and find her.
Windo takes the world of social media and extrapolates it into the future where everyone is living in an almost virtual world instead of the real one. There is no need to learn to read, or speak, everything is on a mental plate for you, but suddenly it’s yanked away, and no-one knows how to do anything anymore, which is an interesting idea. Do you know how things work? Could you make them work again? Probably not. But mankind’s reliance on The Feed has left everyone vulnerable to being taken over by…what? Aliens? Demons? Like me, you might think you’ve worked it out, but...
This is broad-brush science fiction, harking back to what Ray Bradbury said about being more interested in what powers the people rather than what powers the rocket, and we are firmly on the side of Tom and Kate as they struggle to find their daughter in a world where others stalk the landscape, some of them human, some of them humans housing the Taken. I’m sure readers will be reminded of many apocalyptic novels and I couldn’t help think of Adam Nevill’s Lost Girl, and Conrad William’s One. The latter in particular has a killer twist, a simple sentence that changes everything, and Windo has one too – but no spoilers here, simply to say that it certainly ups the ante, and I have to give him full marks for his ability to write a convincing fight scene – either with a ravenous dog or flesh-eating human - in a frenetic, frantic style.
All in all, despite its bleakness, The Feed is an interesting post-apocalyptic science fiction novel that builds to a climax that embraces the three Hs - haunting, horrific and perhaps, hopeful.
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