Book Review: Genesis

Title/Author:  Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Genre:  Adult Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic

Published:  December 31st, 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Hardcover, 150 pages

How I Got This Book:  Checked it out from the library

Why I Picked It Up?:  This book was recommended by a co-worker as being a short yet shocking dystopia-esque book, so naturally I HAD to add it to my list!

Book Jacket Blurb:  Anax thinks she knows history. Her grueling all-day Examination has just begun, and if she passes, she’ll be admitted into the Academy—the elite governing institution of her utopian society. But Anax is about to discover that for all her learning, the history she’s been taught isn’t the whole story. And the Academy isn’t what she believes it to be. In this brilliant novel of dazzling ingenuity, Anax’s examination leads us into a future where we are confronted with unresolved questions raised by science and philosophy. Centuries old, these questions have gained new urgency in the face of rapidly developing technology. What is consciousness? What makes us human? If artificial intelligence were developed to a high enough capability, what special status could humanity still claim? Outstanding and original, Beckett’s dramatic narrative comes to a shocking conclusion.

My Review of this Work: 

This novel is very different from the multitude of dystopia novels out there.  Genesis is a story that takes place within a four hour time frame, during Anax’s dedicated examination time for the entrance into the Academy.  As a student striving for the Academy, Anax has devoted years to studying one of the key figures in her Republic’s history:  Adam Forde.  The further Anax gets in to her exam, the more we learn about Adam Forde and the Republic.

I stated up front that this novel is very different.  For one thing, our “main character” Anax actually has nothing to do with the story being told.  She is what I would call an “anybody.”  Her role in this novel could be played by anybody.  She is merely a placeholder for a more important idea, and that idea is conveyed through her examination.  This is the first novel that I have ever read where a character is not the focus of a novel.  Genesis is about a philosophical idea that raises questions of humanity and science and rights in such a unique way.

As a whole, I kind of related this novel to Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, which is one of my favorite works of British Literature. Like Utopia, Genesis doesn’t tell a story as much as it conveys a descriptive history of a society.  In Utopia, Sir Thomas and his companions meet a traveler who tells them about all about this country he once stayed in.  And that is the entire work of literature–a description of the ins and outs of this utopian society.  And this society is so eloquent and beautiful and peaceful and serene.  In a word:  Perfect.  (And if you have yet to read this work, I highly recommend it, if for no other reason than to understand where all of the “all-the-rage” dystopias have stemmed from in literary history.)  In a similar notion, Genesis tells the story of the Republic through Anax’s exam.  Same premise, different situation.  Through Anax, we learn about the impact that one man made on the history of the Republic and how that affected the future this society.

The more we learn about Adam Forde, the more we as readers begin to question the ethics that the Republic stands for.  Questions are raised regarding religion, science, human rights, the definition of humanity, and right vs. wrong.  Adam struggles with the system the Republic has set up, and the consequences of his actions send him on a personal journey of discovering for himself what is right and what is wrong.  He questions everything he believes when he comes face to face with Art, a fully independent, completely functional robot.  The philosophical question of what makes us human becomes a central part to Adam’s life, and consequently the reader’s too.

You are in for a quick and wild ride filled with intrigue and thought-provoking philosophical elements.  This is one of those books that you will finish quickly but still be thinking about days later.  Genesis is a book that challenges you, both as a reader and as a thinker.  This story is both shocking and unexpected!

My Bookshelf Rating:

A Fourth Shelf Book!

A short but SHOCKING novel.  Focusing on philosophy and history of a post-apocalyptic dystopian society, Genesis is a novel that will make you question your concept of reality and truth.  A completely unexpected story.  Always a delight to read a book that is full of surprises.

Love and Junk Food,
Jennifer

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