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Genesis
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80 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I hate paying more than $10 dollars for a book. But I walked into Borders, saw this book sitting there, opened to the first page, and two minutes later I was out $20 dollars and happier than ever. From there I proceeded to read the book over a two day period, very dismayed every time real life asked me to put it down. Then I finished it. You should also know I also hate writing reviews on amazon (everyone else does such a good job, it's very intimidating). But this book was so good I felt like it'd be tantamount to sin not to go online and spend a few minutes giving it five stars and trying to convince the masses of their need to read it as well.

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.
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52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
This small book is inherently provocative as it plunges into the distant future, 2075, when the world as we know it has finally spiraled into paranoia and endless wars in an orgy of self-destruction. Even for the common good, countries have been unable to overcome their mutual distrust. The result is The Republic, an area separated from a disintegrating world by a great sea wall, intruders scarce after years of war and plague outside the barrier. The structured society of the Republic is based on a careful alignment of working principles, a combination of science and technology, four distinct classes meeting the needs of a secure environment: Laborers, Soldiers, Technicians and Philosophers.

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. This is unfamiliar territory, the future in thrall to a carefully-orchestrated balance of science, technology and ideas.

Seduced by Beckett's persuasive prose, the reader gains access to an otherworldly future via Anax's responses to her inquisitor's questions and the significance of a shifting paradigm for survival. Like Anax, the reader is caught in the intricate web of plausible argument, a rejection of conspiracy and the vital energy of an engaged consciousness. All the more shocking then, the culmination of Anax's quest and the inherent flaws in the integration of individual and technology. Beckett's hook baited, the careful playing out of line draws the unsuspecting closer to an unexpected fate. Luan Gaines/2009.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Wow. What an interesting and unusual short novel!

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.)
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Bernard Beckett's Genesis is set in an island nation that cut itself off generations ago from a world that eventually was destroyed by plague. The island has gone through several incarnations of political rule and the current one involves rule by the Academy. Young Anaximander is taking the entrance exam, judged by three Examiners, who question her on her specialty: the life of Adam Forde, the nation's long-dead hero who disobeyed orders by saving rather than killing a plague refugee whose ship reached the island. Forde was sentenced to be the companion of an early-version android AI, to help the AI grow.
The entire book (really a novella rather than a novel) is Anaximander's 4 hour exam, told via the question/answer dialogue between her and her examiners, a lot of "presentation-style" dialogue as she makes her case for her interpretation of history, and reconstructed (via Anaximander's memory or hologram) scenes between Adam Forde and Art (the AI).
This is not at all a plot-driven book. Mostly it's an examination of consciousness, of what it means to be "human" or "alive", the focus of the several discussions between Adam and Art. It's also a question of interpretation of history and its uses. The theme is captivating and the dialogue between Adam and Art is a compelling, concise look at the question. The writing as a whole is quite tight and focuses, reminding me of LeGuin's economy of language (if not her poetic style). As a first entry into this sort of book: a little mix of dystopia (Brave New World, especially in how labor is divided), of Asimov (especially his Robot stories/novels), of Serling (especially the latter part), it does its job well. If you haven't read anything like this, then I'd recommend it happily, despite a few flaws. The major one being the narrative structure bleeds it a bit of emotion, based as it is on either a highly structured/academic presentation or a pretty erudite Socratic dialogue. And he does get a bit cutesy with the names--Adam, Art, Eve, etc. And finally, as mentioned, it is a bit brief--more a novella or even a long short story (I think it would have worked better as such) than a full novel).
But the biggest problem with genesis will come with readers who have had some exposure to this type of story before. For those readers, it will seem a bit derivative here and there, a bit obvious here and there, and the ending will be guessed at well before it arrives.
Now new generations of readers need to be reintroduced to these ideas, and this is an especially apt introduction for younger readers, and ideas are always recycled of course, so I can't call this a major fault in the book, just a fair warning. Even as such, it's a quick, enjoyable, and somewhat thoughtful read if not all that surprising.
So a strong 3 as a rec for its taut writing and thoughtfulness, knocked down for not being wholly original, for a somewhat disappointing close, and perhaps for a bit of padding. But round up for new readers to this genre and round down for more familiar readers.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The premise and story of Genesis seemed exciting and different so I was looking forward to reading this. Yet I never was able to get into it...to sink into the book the way a good book needs to be felt in order to enjoy it.
The narrative structure/main characters verbal interaction really put me off. It came off so sterile... like reading about the story instead of reading the story itself. It does not involve the reader, it keeps you at a remove. And the plot itself was simplistic and by the numbers most of the time. The book does present intriguing ideas that in and off themselves are good thought provoking points. But the way and style in which this author incorporated them left me cold.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 30, 2009
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a short (150 pp) and engaging-enough book that establishes and builds an interesting view of some powerful questions. It is masked as a novel of sorts but to me that felt like a very thin veneer overlaying a longish lecture - albeit an often fascinating one. I'm afraid, though, that if it had run much longer in its current form I would not have stuck with it.

The book explores the notions of "mind" and consciousness and "self" in a thought-provoking manner. These are built upon an underpinning of evolutionary theory expanded beyond the biological. If you have read some Dawkins or Dennett you will feel comfortable.

This "novel" is presented primarily in the form of a "dialogue" interspersed with shorter storyline asides. Insofar as it is presenting philosophical ideas I suppose it harks back to a primal form for the genre - but it often seemed forced to me. When the limits of mere dialogue were inadequate to the task the author moves to the device of presuming that one speaker presents a video/movie to her questioners. This allows for a a dip into prose description.

In the reading I was repeatedly brought back to my experience of Jostein Gaarder's "Sophie's World". This book was widely acclaimed as a "novel" but also felt to me like a thinly-disguised monologue.

As a "novel of ideas" I was hoping more for a Neal Stephenson-type of book and as I am currently reading his fantastic "Baroque Cycle" trilogy with it's ripping and multi-stranded storylines I suppose that colored my impressions.

In tone the book's protagonist employs a rather high-church diction with a reverential approach to the ideas expressed - appropriate to her task of being examined for "the academy". This was, for me, jarringly contrasted with the language and tone of the deceased cultural hero ("Adam" !) whose life is the nominal focus of her examination. I came to assume that this contrast was intended to make some sort of second-level point on the author's part (you can see how the persistent teachy/preachy tone infected me). Nevertheless, I found it simply odd. Neither character develops in any meaningful way - both functioning as roughly-sketched props for the (mono)/dia-logue.

The book has an interesting twist at the end which I will not give away and which I have to say I anticipated but was nevertheless satisfying. I went back and looked at the front jacket and had a chuckle. (hint).

Your mileage may vary.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The author had a kernel of an idea that could have made for a very good book. However, I don't think he had the experience or skill to wrap a compelling or even entirely coherent story around it. He borrowed heavily from other very famous sci-fi work which cheapened and distracted from his own ideas considerably. Golden rule - don't try to rework I Robot or Planet of the Apes or even be perceived as reworking them (even if you mean it as an homage) unless you are extremely skilled. Good try, but a fail is a fail. Hopefully lesson learned and better yet to come.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
** 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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
An unexpected surprise, Bernard Beckett's "Genesis" is a compellingly simple novella debating some refreshingly complex ideas. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, "Genesis" presents a society known as the Republic. This isolated community has survived the plague years by being vigilant in its defenses and, in many ways, is thriving under a structured world order. Owing a lot (perhaps a tad too much) to Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," individualism has been sacrificed for the good of the whole and the nature of humanity is being redefined.

A young student, Anax, hopes to find a place in The Academy. To secure her position, and thus establish her career/life path, she must first present herself to the board for a final test. Structured as an oral examination, the narrative of "Genesis" is every bit as intriguing as the actual story. As Anax is questioned, we learn about the history and philosophy of the Republic. But her main thesis revolves around Adam Forde, a significant hero or a dangerous rebel depending on who you ask. She idealizes what she believes Forde represents, but within the context of the interview--she must face some darker truths.

At the core of "Genesis," Beckett has crafted a number of philosophical arguments that play out within exam that Anax must undertake. "Genesis" pits the individual against the society, free thought against rules and order, even humans themselves against technology. Beckett has done a terrific job balancing these thought-provoking notions into an enjoyable and entertaining read. "Genesis" captures your mind, which is rare enough, but it manages to accomplish so much more. With so many big ideas crammed into such a slim volume (you could literally read "Genesis" in one sitting), I feel compelled to sing its praises--if not for me, than for the good of society! It's as if my mind is not my own.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
A friend of mine last week recommended that I pick up Genesis by Bernard Beckett. A novella at 150 pages, he said it was a good read with an excellent ending. So, the library had a copy available and it was sent to my local branch within a day or two. I started reading last night, and finished it today. He was right... it's an interesting read dealing with a fair amount of philosophy, but the ending caught me totally off-guard. I was even thinking I knew what the ending would be since he had tipped me to a major twist. Nope... didn't see that one coming.

An all-out world war started in 2050, and ended with most all the inhabitants of the planet being killed off. That is, except for those who had followed a leader named Plato who had purchased a group of islands at the bottom of the world. He set up his own Republic, shaped the society, and built a secure border defense to kill anyone who tried to make it to the island as a refugee. A rogue leader on the island, Adam Forde, broke this "take no refugees" rule one time when he helped a defenseless young girl breech the sea fence instead of killing her on sight. The event and the subsequent trial and death of Forde form much of the mythology of the society.

Anaximander is a resident of the Republic, and she's trying to gain admittance into the Academy, the ruling board of the Republic. She is having her admittance exam in front of three examiners, and she has four hours to expound on a particular topic as they grill and scrutinize her. She's chosen to discuss the history of Forde and offer up an alternative analysis of his death and its meaning. Although controversial, her presentation and work in front of the panel is going well until the questioning takes an expected turn. This new information forces her to reexamine everything she thought she knew about the Republic and the role that Forde played in shaping the life she currently lives.

In terms of plot, there isn't a lot of action. There's the singular event that caused all the initial problems. Everything after that is dialogue and philosophical discussions, both on the part of Amaximander and in the recreation of Forde's life behind bars after being arrested. The topics are interesting, however, and watching Forde being broken down bit by bit was fascinating. But what made the book for me was the ending. After finishing the book and digesting the end, I almost wanted to start the book over again and reread it with the new perspective. I'm sure the book would have been just as interesting the second time around...
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