The novel begins, “we went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” The narrator of the book (whose name is later revealed to be Titus) and his friends, Link Arwaker and Marty, are bored (or, as they say, “null”) and have been spending their time shocking themselves with wires. Marty suggests they all go to the moon.
In a few short sentences, Anderson introduces readers to spoiled teenagers who are so apathetic that they can’t even recognize what’s so great about getting to go to the moon. This, in a nutshell, is the novel’s vision of the future: Titus and his friends are surrounded by technological miracles, yet are too apathetic to enjoy them. Their main source of pleasure appears to be crude violence.
The friends go to the moon, and their “feeds” give them lots of information about what to buy. Titus thought that he’d be excited by the moon but instead he finds it “old and empty.” On the journey to the moon, Titus notices that his friends “got louder,” as if they’re making up for the emptiness of space.
Titus and his friends have feeds—what exactly these are, beyond the fact that they display ads, isn’t yet clear. Titus suggests that his friends are empty-headed and lonely to the point where they use the noise of their own voices as a kind of barrier against the emptiness of outer space.
In part, Titus wants to go to the moon to “meet someone.” He’s been feeling lonely, even when his feed tells him about new music. On the ride across the surface of the moon, Link makes a lot of noise by playing with his seat, preventing Titus from sleeping. Titus has been drinking a lot, and he’s feeling sick and sad.
Right away, Titus sets himself apart from his friends. He seems more observant and self-reflective than Link and Marty, and more in-tune with his deeper emotions.
Link keeps slamming his seat into Marty’s face. Marty complains that Link is “smashing” his “organs,” but Link ignores him. A waitress on the moon ship smiles at Link and calls him a “nice young man,” but only because Link bought “a slop-bucket of cologne from the duty-free.”
Link is clearly a spoiled teenager, but because he’s obscenely wealthy, people treat him with respect. In the future, it would seem, people are so materialistic that they buy absurd and unnecessary quantities of goods (even cologne, something nobody could ever use in slop-bucket-sized portions).