First published back in January of 2018, British author Nick Clark Windo’s debut novel ‘The Feed’ offered up a thought-provoking vision of a bleak dystopian future laced with poignant warnings for us to ponder.

DLS Synopsis:
Only six years ago the entire world’s population had been connected by the greatest advancement in social knowledge sharing that had ever existed.  The Feed was a powerful and all-encompassing network that allowed the world’s population to plug directly into a vast ocean of collective knowledge, giving the everyone instant access to everything without bounds.

Everyone’s thoughts, memories, emotions and history were open for all to access without a second’s thought.  There was no need to learn anything anymore.  No need to communicate verbally.  In fact, the Feed had done everything for them: stored information, told them what to eat, when to exercise, how much to sleep, it communicated for them more efficiently than they ever could on their own, and recorded everyone’s memories.  Your entire being could be backed-up on The Feed, offering a chance for nothing short of digital immortality.  Within a short space of time the entire world had become completely and irreversibly reliant on The Feed.

And then The Feed collapsed.

In the blink of an eye, decades of dependence on the platform had brought the world to its knees.  Society crumbled as millions upon millions succumbed to starvation, as their reliance on a technology that had failed left them without the very basic know how for their own survival.

Minute pockets of survivors – those that had resisted the draw of The Feed – were left alone in an near empty world.  Kate and Tom were two such survivors.  Since the collapse of The Feed they’d brought a daughter into the world.  One of the first to be born who could once again see the world how it really was.  To understand and appreciate the barefaced reality of existence.  A glimmer of hope in the mindboggling vastness of a lost world.  They’d named their daughter Bea.

Together the small family unit lived on a remote farm with a handful of others.  Their collective knowledge slowly rebuilding as they relearnt everything.  How to cook.  How to make.  How to survive.

But they had other troubles to contend with.  More than mere survival.  Sleep was a danger.  At night one of them always had to be there to keep guard over them.  To watch over them in case they noticed a change in their slumbering companions.  A slight shift in their sleep that ultimately signalled a fundamental change in who they were.  Those this change happened to - the taken - would wake to be a threat to the community’s very existence.  And there was only one way the taken could be dealt with.  It was a simple case of us or them.

Life in this empty, hostile world, was a day-to-day struggle for survival.  Trust was no longer infallible.  Anyone could change.  And the battle to keep going, to keep humanity from slipping away forever, cast a constant shadow upon them all.  And in one catastrophic night, Kate and Tom’s world is ripped away from them.  In one terrible serious of events, their whole purpose, their hope, their beautiful daughter, is taken from them.

They will do whatever it takes to get her back.  No matter what is needed.  No matter what the cost.  They must get her back…

DLS Review:
From the above synopsis you’ve no doubt garnered that this is some proper dystopian fiction with a solid side-helping of post-apocalyptic desolation.  Think David Moody meets Gorge Orwell, with a thick-blooded social commentary and a critically cautious eye on the advancement in technology.  In fact, author Nick Clark Windo packs in a whole host of ideas, raising a veritable litany of questions with a deeply thought provoking vision of a bleak-as-holy-hell future.

The novel kick starts in the time before the collapse of The Feed.  Here we’re bombarded with a sizeable wall of text.  A surge of futuristic terminology thrust at us, as we attempt to decipher what the hell we’re being confronted with.  After a short time you learn to pick out the key messages and understand what is being said in this tsunami of social media-esque outpouring.

These walls of mind-boggling social media drivel are pretty much all we ever witness of The Feed and the time before its collapse.  The rest of the novel (which forms the vast majority of the tale) is set in the time after The Feed died and the world’s population was pretty much wiped out.  The backdrop is your classic post-apocalyptic setting – nestled somewhere between a cosy catastrophe ala ‘The Death Of Grass’ (1956) and something much bleaker and devoid of almost all human life.

Environmental and ecological destruction play a reasonably minor hand in the further unravelling of humanity, as does the lingering tendrils of The Feed and the invasive networked technology ingrained in its prior existence.  However, for a large part of the tale you feel left in the shadowy darkness of not really understanding the reasoning behind the cause of the humanity’s catastrophic undoing and indeed what is still gnawing away at those very few remaining survivors.  There’s a very dominant dark sci-fi edge to everything in here – tip toeing closer to that of an unforgivingly bleak horror as each page is turned.

However, behind the downbeaten vision of our future lies a purposefully steadfast human element.  Family, love, commitment and companionship emerge from the desolate wasteland of an otherwise soulless and empty new world, like monuments of what we hope will remain within us all.  Yes there are warnings and ponderings of what we are heading towards with our seeming devotion for cyber social connections and a reliance on digitised technology.  And such musings feel wholly at home in the construct of the larger tale; never sitting outside of the realms of the novel’s storytelling, but instead forming an intrinsic part of its very fabric.

This all invariably works in the novel’s favour.  It’s what gives it life and the limbs to explore some truly thought provoking territory that’s just that little too eerily possible for comfort.  However, the tale isn’t without its disappointing faults.  Pacing is habitually stifled and cumbersome.  Windo often choosing to ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’ the numerous building blocks that form the foundation of his story.  Characters are also stunted in their development and the overall fleshing out feels paper thin at times.  Even with the likes of Kate and Tom, you can’t help but feel unforgivingly disconnected from their plight.

An unrelenting gloom surrounds the vast majority of the book.  The effects of this work in the novel’s favour, but at the same time don’t help with keeping its energy and drive up.  At times the tale can feel like a veritable slog to keep trudging through.  With page after page offering little to no movement forwards (or backwards), the tale suffers from serious stagnation on more than one occasion, leaving the reader feeling a decidedly lacklustre drive to keep ploughing on.

But ultimately, due almost entirely to the inspired backbones behind the fabric of the tale and the moral dilemmas it periodically poses, there’s just enough meat under the cold hide of its outerskin to keep you wanting those final answers.  And thankfully Windo has plenty up his sleeve to deliver, which he does with a wonderfully executed twist that gets the tale back on the rails again for the breath-taking conclusion.

The novel runs for a total of 352 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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