Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: Genesis - Bernard Beckett

Title: Genesis
Author: Bernard Beckett
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Purchased
Parental Warning: none

“Every pause, every flickering of uncertainty: the Examiners observed them all. This, surely, was how they decided. Anax felt suddenly slow and unimpressive. She could still hear Pericles’ last words. “They want to see how you will respond to the challenge. Don’t hesitate. Talk your way toward understanding. Trust the words.” And back then it had sounded so simple. Now her face tautened and she had to think her way to the words, searching for them in the way one searches for a friend in a crowd, panic never more than a moment away.”

Anaximander lives in a world of rigid faith and structure. A world where plague has decimated populations and changed the way the people of Anax’s country were governed. Most importantly it became a world that changed how free people were to live the lives of their own choosing. As part of this world an ultra exclusive Academy has been created where only a chosen few are allowed entrance. Anaximander, fortunately or not, is one of those few.

As part of her entrance exam she has chosen to provide an oral history of Adam Forde. A somewhat controversial subject, Adam is a man branded as both friend and foe to her country. A man Anax considers a hero. It is Adam’s relationship with Art, the central player in the one act the former perpetrates in defense of humanity, that becomes the singular focus of Anax’s testimony before the Examiners. In that re-telling, Anax showcases how Adam changed the direction of history and as a result shaped the world they all lived in.

It’s extremely difficult to review this book without giving away the most surprising elements of the story. But as a lover of dystopian settings I’ll say that this one was pretty awesome. It’s one hundred percent worth your time to read.

It’s a pretty short story that is quickly read. Having said that, however quick a reader can get through is of no real consequence though as it is as profound and thought-provoking a book as many of the classics. I’m going to get a bit cliche here and say that when all is said and done Genesis is the very definition of a page-turner.

Beckett paints the picture of a stunning locale — futuristic in tone but simplistic in reality. Moreover, he generates innovative and enthralling characters in Anax, Adam and Art. Each obviously has their own individual characteristics but are all also bound together by their love of thought. Their story, told primarily in flashbacks, is a stunning portrait of how one event can be the catalyst to shaping an individual’s opinions on humanity, religion and government.

Subtle hints throughout the story foreshadow the end (which I will not spoil here) but, surprisingly, did not give it all away. It wasn’t until I went back and re-read certain points that I noticed small references, a word here and there, that reinforced the ultimate resolution to the story. Beckett was quite masterful in that way.

In case you didn’t already get the idea, I absolutely recommend that anyone read this book. Even if you aren’t a sci-fi fan (it’s really not overwhelming in the fantasy elements) I believe you’ll find it enjoyable.

Where it's Reviewed:


  1. Wow, this sounds like a really interesting book. I just recently got into dystopic literature and this looks like a book I might really enjoy.

  2. I agree--this was one of the most thought provoking books I've read for a while!

  3. The copy I read was from the library, but I'm going to buy it because I want to reread it and I also want The Hubster to read it.

  4. This does sound pretty amazing. Must read. Thanks Michelle for the awesome review.


  5. I was totally taken in by the book. I listened to the audio and plan to reread it in print. I am curious to see if I can find the hints and clues.