I’m a huge fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, and so Windo’s debut novel, The Feed, was one that held massive appeal for me when it was released in 2018.
It makes us. It destroys us.
The Feed is everywhere. It can be accessed by anyone, at any time. Every interaction, every emotion, every image can be shared through it.
Tom and Kate use The Feed, but they have resisted addiction to it. And this will serve them well when The Feed collapses.
Until their six-year-old daughter, Bea, goes missing.
Because how do you find someone in a world devoid of technology? And what happens when you can no longer trust that your loved ones are really who they claim to be?
The Feed starts with a prologue that introduces the reader to the Feed – a sort of enhanced social media that is embedded directly within us and that allows us to communicate with friends, family, and strangers at ease. News updates are streamed directly, and users can share what’s going on in their lives, not just in words, but also with the emotions experienced at the time, allowing others to share a moment in the fullest sense. The world is constantly connected, and if you think that you spend too much time looking at your phone, you’ve got nothing on these guys who are connected 24/7, with the idea of unplugging every now and again a wholly alien concept to most.
The prologue also introduces the reader to Kate and Tom, who choose to disconnect from the Feed occasionally, and talk in the true sense of the word. They are soon forced to reconnect, however, when catastrophe strikes as the US president is assassinated. I think that the prologue for The Feed is brilliant. In a few short pages, it introduces the world in which the novel is set as well as the key characters, but it also shows the moment at which things begin to fail. While it doesn’t happen immediately, I loved seeing that one catastrophic moment that set the chain of events in motion and that leads brilliantly into the rest of the novel. While not unique, I love seeing the beginning of the end, and that moment in The Feed is as shocking as you’d hope.
From the prologue, the novel moves on six years, and shows how much the world has changed in that relatively short space of time. The Feed has gone, leaving many people feeling, at best, bereft, with some people dying as everything they’ve ever known becomes inaccessible to them. Even Kate and Tom, who weren’t as addicted as many, still reach for the Feed out of habit, despite knowing it’s not there anymore. The way of life has changed significantly, too, with a few small pockets of people left to scavenge and / or farm in order to survive. The Feed is as bleak as the end of the world gets, and I, of course, loved every page.
Kate and Tom are part of a small community that is trying to grow crops, with limited success, as much of the knowledge around the machinery and technology that would make this easier has been lost to them. This introduces another element that was lost with the Feed – that of easy access to any and all information, and what happens when that information source is no longer available to us. With information so readily available, there is little need to learn as we do currently, and I think that while The Feed takes this to extremes, it is something that is becoming more apparent in the world today, as people become increasingly reliant upon the internet for quick access information where historically information would have been memorised.
The novel is a little slow to get going after the prologue, as it introduces the world post-Feed. The pace soon speeds up as Tom and Kate’s daughter, Bea, is kidnapped, and from there the pace doesn’t slow down at any point. It’s a long and difficult journey, and one that tests Kate and Tom to their limits. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and yet so much harder to deal with when there’s no one to call, and no technology to rely upon to find a missing child. And, as if the survivors haven’t got quite enough going on already, Windo introduces the concept of being “taken”, meaning that the body is taken over by an intruder. I thought that this was a fascinating idea, and while it takes a while to reveal the how and they why of this, it’s another danger that these people have to guard against.
Between the kidnapping and the risk of being taken, there’s a lot going on in this novel, and I liked that Windo didn’t just show what triggered the apocalypse, but also gave the reader an explanation as to why (and how) it was brought about. This isn’t an essential element for me, and can sometimes trigger a rolling of the eyes, but it was done brilliantly in this novel, and I really liked understanding what had triggered the events.
I loved The Feed, and found it to be a hugely satisfying and intelligent novel that I’d recommend to fans of post-apocalyptic fiction. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking read.
The Feed is published by Headline, and is available to purchase now.