In Stores Now, Literary Liaisons

In Stores Now-The Feed

As any regular follower of this blog knows I am an avid admirer of both high concept science fiction and post-apocalyptic literature. In The Feed, Nick Clark Windo’s debut novel, I hoped I might find myself a new favorite in these genres that I would enjoy revisiting for years to come. Unfortunately, all I found myself was disappointed. While The Feed is by no means a bad read it is possessed of several flaws that keep it from elevating itself into that can’t miss category of new releases.
Let’s start with the plot. The entire world is connected via a neuro-linked internet embedded directly in your head called The Feed. When The Feed goes offline suddenly and people randomly begin to turn into possessed psychopaths, society collapses. This is an incredibly cool and timely premise, one that goes completely to waste.
After a brief prologue showing us the world before The Feed collapses we jump ahead six years to a post-apocalyptic future where most human knowledge has been lost. The narrative presents itself as a simple every-mans tale of survival. One man trying to survive and protect his family in this new world. It is impossible not to draw a parallel here to Cormack McCarthy’s The Road. But where McCarthy invests in his father and son duo and keeps his narrative small in scope and tight in its focus, Windo uses his main character’s family as nothing more than plot points, stock characters with no more use than to drive the plot forward. Then about a third of the way into the book, the everyman survival story is jettisoned for a convoluted plot that relies on a ridiculous amount of exposition to explain to the reader. It’s a mess. I’m not entirely sure how it can simultaneously be too simple and too complicated all at once but it manages. By trying to be two things it fails at both.
Windo’s writing style doesn’t help matters. He makes the decision to include snippets of text that read like what people’s minds were like in the feed. It’s stream of consciousness internet gobblety gook. And while I can appreciate the effort to convey what these thoughts are like and how intentionally jarring they can be, Waldo goes back to this well a few too many times. These segments are too jarring and worse they are too repetitive. They take the reader out of the flow of the book and really add nothing to the narrative after the first few instances of use.
Another problem I have comes from the book’s multiple time jumps. Not only do we have two six-year time jumps along with multiple POV shifts we also have multiple flashbacks within the individual narrative time periods. Again, I know what Windo is trying to do, and I think he does it well. I just think he sacrifices too much readability to get there.
Everything up to now I could forgive but this last complaint is a death knell to me. The characters here are static. They do not grow, they lack nuance, and as I mentioned before, most are treated as little more than objects to be moved and sacrificed in order to advance the plot. It’s annoying and it’s frustrating and it is in my mind unforgivable in this modern age of storytelling.
The Feed is In Stores Now, but honestly, unless you are a huge fan of the genre and just want to have read it for yourself this isn’t a book I would bother with. Not when there are so many better options out there.

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