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Bernard Beckett




Teen & Young Adult

PDF ebook size:

1956 kb

ePub ebook size:

1657 kb

Fb2 ebook size:

1546 kb

Other book formats:

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Quercus Children's Books (May 7, 2009)




Science Fiction and Fantasy



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Genesis by Bernard Beckett

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2041 - First global dust storms, 2050 - First shot in The Last War fired, 2051 - The Great Sea Fence completed; the Republic founded, 2052 - First plague released, and 2077 - The Great War begins. A...Fourteen-year-old Anax thinks she knows her history. She'd better. She's sat facing three Examiners and her grueling five-hour examination has just begun. If she passes, she'll be admitted into The Academy - the elite institution that runs 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 that The Academy isn't what she believes it to be. The reader is about to discover a provocative novel of dazzling ingenuity. Anax's examination leads us into a future where ancient - eternal - philosophical questions have dramatically collided with the march of technology, where just what it means to be human is up for debate, and where the concealed stain of an Original Sin threatens the very existence of her Brave New World.
This novel, the most impressive since “Three Body Problem,” takes sci FI back to its roots, as vehicles for ideas and speculation. The idea explored is that of the Mutant (think X-Men, the Mule in Asimov’s Foundation novels). Human civilization has always guarded against the stranger, the Pale Rider. The Mutant is an extreme example, one who is genuinely different from us, not just someone who appears to be different. The Mutant is a threat, just like a virus—it does not belong. Of course, the mutant may bring beneficial changes, but fear is always stronger than hope. These ideas are fleshed out in the novel in the form of a dystopian future, where humans have retreated to the comforts of a controlled society. The Mutant is an Artificial Intelligence that may be too creative for its own good. Even though the novel has long passages of philosophical debate, it skillfully weaves in action, drama and tension. And there’s the big twist at the end!
** I would have given this 2 stars before I hit the last five pages.

What is it that makes us unique? The size of our brain? Metacognition? The ability to reason, sympathize, and empathize? In Bernard Beckett's tiny novella, Genesis, he takes a unique approach to exam the heart of that very question. What is it that makes humans so special?

Anax is giving her presentation to the Academy for approval. She has studied, memorized, researched, and she believes she has developed an amazing presentation for the Examiners. While many people tell the story of Adam Ford, her new approach to the topic is what she thinks will gain her acceptance into the Academy. As the catalyst from a tightly controlled island fortress community to what the world has become now, Adam was the one man who changed the world. Arrested for defying orders, but unable to execute him as he became a public sensation and his death would create outrage, Adam was sent to live forever with the professor and his new AI robot, Art. It is this relationship that paved the way for the world Anax lives in, and she can't help but feel a connection to it.

I still don't know what to really say about this story! Honestly, I really didn't like the story for most of its measly 150 pages, but in the last 5 pages, I felt like I was hit by a freight train! The premise of this little novella is entirely unique. There is no action, no real plot, just the delivery of some type of thesis. This was troubling for me because it meant I never truly connected with or engaged with any characters from the story. I got to know as much about Anax as I did the completely nameless Examiner. She was not even mysterious, just more like a flat secondary character. So you would think Adam was the focus of the story, then, right? You are correct, but, you only see snippits of his life. You don't see anything that will really allow you to connect with Adam on a personal level, either for good or bad. Instead he is just a test subject. Something to be examined and studied. This disjointed account of his life was certainly interesting, but it did not give me the connections I so craved.

Then the last five pages hit. And I can't stop thinking about them! It was delivered so calmly. So carefully, and then BAM. A shot right to the gut. Honestly, this ending made me hold this story in an entirely new light. I can't say I loved it. But I can't stop thinking about it. And the deep implications of this story about humanity, about our willingness to kill and yet our inability to kill, artificial intelligence, and how technology controls our lives. All of this has been swirling in my brain more with this tiny little novella than I ever had when I took a Science Fiction class in college or throughout all my SF reading since then. Beckett actually thumped me more than all the heavyweights like Asimov and Heinlein. So did I like the story? Nah. It was OK. Not something I would read again for pleasure. Do I think this story deserves a place on my shelf and possibly in my classroom? TOTALLY. It was deep and complex with the guise of pure simplicity. It is something that would be excellent to teach in a Literature classroom, and I think that is where it would be best enjoyed. I have a few books that I know I loved because I learned/read them in a classroom setting. It was the guidance of the professor or teacher and the discussions with my classmates that allowed me to fully understand the story. I think this is one of those stories. It might not be great for a summer reading or independent reading project, but to read it in class? Kids are going to feel like I do right now. Bulldozed.
I listen to audio-books in my car when I take trips as I listen to the story and don't notice how long the trip is. When I took a shorter trip on Saturday I figured this would be perfect to listen to; what I found was that it was so engaging there were times I repeated the track because I missed something. By the time I returned home, I drove around a little because the story was nearly finished and I had to hear the end. Several others have put forth more detailed reviews so I won't and will say that I agree with their reviews. When I reached the end, I started it all over again.
Genesis is a thoughtful, narrative-driven book about a futuristic nation isolated from the rest of the world after years of war and plague. It's fundamentally focused on artificial intelligence versus natural intelligence and a treatise on examining when computer intelligence actually becomes natural intelligence, if ever. The plot entirely centers on young Anaximander, a candidate for induction into the elite Academy, and her examiners are conducting a 4 hour oral test to evaluate her suitability.

The entire book is about Anaximander's responses to questions -- the author is quite adept at this style and I found it engaging and substantive, suprisingly so. Anaximander relates the story of how civilization reaches this point and it culminates in an unexpected ending that I never saw coming. Much of the dialogue is fairly philosophical, centered around artificial intelligence and at what point it becomes equal to or superior to natural intelligence. There's a definite man versus robot theme going here and Asimov's I, Robot strains echo faintly in the background.

While the book was solidly engaging and a great value for the price, I couldn't help but feel there could have been more to it at the end -- the nature of an ironic, surprise type ending can leave the reader left feeling somewhat cheated. All in all, a solid, engaging, thoughtful effort well worth your time.

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