Review: Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Genesis by Bernard Becket
Genesis by Bernard Becket

Bernard Beckett
Harcourt, 2009

Genesis is a book that I’d actually prefer to have Mr. I’m-working-on-my-genetics-PhD-and-Don’t-post-anymore Rick read and review as, besides being a piece of rather entertaining fiction, takes the form of a Socratic dialogue on the nature of life, artificial or otherwise, that is more directly pertinent to his chosen profession.  Instead you get me and why I’ll can’t comment in any authoritative matter on the scientific and ethical underpinnings of the arguments the main character Anaxamander (Anax for short) makes I can tell you that the entire process feels smooth, natural, and makes for an impressively compelling read.

In a post-apocalyptic future several thinkers following the beliefs and methods of the ancient Greeks founded an island, called The Republic, that they annexed off from the rest of the world; killing and destroying any Outsiders that attempt approach their new home.  Our story begins as Anaxamander steps before members of The Academy for her entrance examination.  She specializes in the mythological hero’s tale of a one Adam Forde whose actions lead to the downfall of the Republic and a reorganization of society into a new Utopian ideal.

Anax’s thoeries and opinions regarding Adam’s actions and ideals test the conventional opinion and she finds herself struggling against the regimented thinking of the Academy and society at large.  In turn the Academy’s responses to her opinions engender a great deal of personal reflection and revelation on her part with regards to her own thoughts, opinions, and feelings regarding both her chosen field and her society.  The entire book takes place, more or less, like a script or transcription between Anax and her Examiners with interjects and reflections from Anax in order to better illuminate her own thoughts and reactions.  Despite the unity of time and place of the novel Becket manages to work in some rather meaty “historical” details by making holographic interpretations of Anax’s subject a part of her examination.  By doing so Beckett gives the reader a broad overview of the history of Anax’s home and a keen look into Anax’s character, illuminates the philosophical underpinnings of her world and, when the real version of events are revealed at the novel’s climax, gives the reader an even more penetrating look not only at Anax and her society but also the reader’s own thoughts and reactions over the course of the novel.  It is a rather powerful effect and made me want to go back and start the book all over again and examine, in greater detail, the beliefs of this dystopian island society.

I don’t want to discuss the plot in too much detail, lest a spoil the best parts, but as an individual who typical goes for the bigger, more action oriented sci-fi/fantasy novels I was surprised just how much I enjoyed this book.  For fast readers Genesis, at 160 pages, is a quick read that despite being mostly conversation absolutely flies by.  If you enjoy sci-fi that makes you think, or are looking for a beach read that has a bit more intellectual heft than some of the more wiz-bang explosive summer reads.  Fantastic science fiction with a very old school, classic feel to it.

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