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Genesis Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 20, 2009
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Amazon Exclusive: An Essay by Bernard Beckett, Author of Genesis
When I tire of my computer it's considered quite acceptable, environmental issues aside, for me to bin it, bury it, or rip out its innards and convert the shell into a fish bowl. It is considered less acceptable for me to do any of these things to my still functioning cat. And that feels much as it should be.
Yet my computer routinely beats me at chess, while my cat struggles to use a cat door. Whatever we believe sets the animal apart from the machine, with each passing year it becomes harder to believe that processing power is the defining factor. And that's the apparently harmless thought at the heart of Genesis.
Our instincts cling to the mysticism of the life force, the élan vital that appears to animate the world of creatures and separate them from our machines. Instincts though are rarely enough. The modern understanding of evolution makes it easy to view life as little more (or less) than a trick of chemistry, and the harmless question takes on an edge.
The novelist though mustn't be content with simply exposing the edge. I am drawn to stories that tear at me. I like my reading to leave a little scar tissue and I aspire to create stories that might do the same. Just as we are sure that cats and computers are not just different things, but different kinds of things, so we quite naturally draw a line between a cat and human that feels inviolable. The life force may no longer be so puzzling, but surely the mystery of consciousness remains secure. Not everybody thinks so, and that provides the gap into which a story can be wedged.
This thought spent a good few years trapped inside my own consciousness. I knew that at the heart of the novel would sit a confrontation between a man and a machine. I knew humanity would be represented by a criminal, imprisoned both by the justice system and his own inflexible beliefs. I also knew the machine would be charming, irascible and provocative. What I didn't know was anything about the story in which this central conceit would be wrapped. I wrote a short play in which the prisoner was a psychopath and spent a couple of years trying on and off to develop that into a novel but it never worked. I needed a trick that would position the audience first with the human and then somehow twist that loyalty, ideally without them realising it was happening.
As is so often the case I didn't get to the final product small step at a time. Rather I tried, failed and turned away. And then, a couple of years later while distracting myself from another task I found the problem had solved itself offstage. Such are the strange workings of the mind.
(Photo © Bruce Foster)
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Not only is the quality of prose superb, but the style is elegant and the ideas hidden in the plot are both important and intelligent. I noticed another reviewer saying that the final plot twist was "out of the blue and not well built-up." That's generally one of my pet peeves when it comes to movies and novels, but fortunately for us, this book was not guilty of such a crime. I saw the elements leading up to the conclusion start appearing very early on and although I was happily surprised with the end, it all made perfect sense and fit nicely with the theories I'd had simmering in the back of my mind since before halfway through the book. It's not a very long book, so it deserves your attention as you read through the relatively small number of pages it asks of you.
All I can really say is that I really really liked this book. I'm not the pickiest of readers, but I do consider myself well read both in the sci-fi arena and in the literature of several countries. Still, I'd put this book among the best I've ever read. I feel like the ideas, plot, and prose are all individually good enough to merit a reading of a book this length, and together are so brilliant as to make not reading it nothing short of inexcusable laziness. You should really read this book.
In Genesis, Anaximander stands before a panel of examiners, applying for a place in the Academy that requires a four-hour oral question and answer session. Three years of intensive study with a mentor have brought Anax to this moment. Grilled by her impassive inquisitors, Anax recites her extensive knowledge of the history of the Republic, the evolution of her chosen subject and her careful dissection of the relevance of this subject to the formation of society. Anax's chosen topic is the subject of myth, a critical part of society's evolution.. Intimidated by the three examiners, Anax is nevertheless confident, replying to the questions with quiet authority.
Anax posits her theories through recorded dialog, focusing the distinctions between humanity and technology and the philosophy of man vs. machine, man's inherent superiority despite the advances of science and technology. In a brilliant exchange of ideas, logic dominates the discussion, with flashes of passion, even hubris.Read more ›
To me, this has something of the feel of a classic early Isaac Asimov story (but with far more modern assumptions, challenges, and true emotional resonance). It is real, hard-core science fiction, a new and very original imagining of the future.
At less than 150 pages, this novel is short enough to encourage the reader to persist; the structure of the novel helps, too (it is divided into the 4 hours of Anax's "examination", with intermissions in the form of "breaks" she is given between hours). Still, this is an intellectually demanding book-- the reader has to pay attention and think about each paragraph.
I particularly valued one aspect of this book: it is almost unique in combining both deep emotional awareness and very complex ideas about ethics, philosophy, and technology.
******* A caution: this book will be absolutely wrecked by any spoilers. If you sense once coming in another review, stop reading! The twist in the final portion of this book is the essence of the book, and it would be soooooooooo sad if the reader knew it was coming in advance.
Overall, an absorbing, not-light, orginal, complex, fascinating, and emotionally engaging novel, written by a scientist who is clearly a passionate person who cares deeply about the dilemmas humanity faces. If you can appreciate a very unique story-telling style and unique imagining of the future you will enjoy "Genesis". (And as an aside, the original hardcover edition of the book has a brilliant cover-- provides clues to the puzzle of the book.)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interestingly enough I think I liked the book as much as most of the other readers and critics, but for different reasons. Read morePublished 22 days ago by Mia
This was engaging and a challenging read, not in difficulty but in reason. I am a huge fan on scientific advancements and modern day understandings still applied in future... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Antman28
I read this for the first time a couple of years ago, and forgot I read it. I didn't forget the Idea though, and would find occasion to bring it up in conversation, but not... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Pangaea
This book was more philosophy than dystopia or science-fiction. I found it strange, though intriguing for the most part. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Ema Reviews
Got here earlier than expected. Summer school book for my son. Good bookPublished 11 months ago by Melanie Williams