On the surface, “Genesis” by Bernard Beckett is an unassuming, almost novella-sized book. But a few pages through the book, you realise that you have jumped into something much more complex, and captivating.
The book is the story of Anaximander (Anax), a history student and her four hour examination to join The Academy, the group of Leader-Scholars of the Republic. On surface, her subject is very mundane: the folk-hero Adam Forde.
When war started, an organization set up an island nation, akin to Plato’s Republic. When plagues affected the external world, Republic closed its shores to any refugee, on the pain of death. A generation later, a soldier named Adam Forde sent shockwaves through the foundations of the Republic society when he helped a woman from outside enter the island. His trial and the story afterwards is known to every child from school years, but Anax has some different insights into his story. What she doesn’t know that she has a startling relation to Adam’s story.
While there are some important characters: Anax, Adam Forde and the artificially intelligent robot Art, they don’t really make the story. The whole book revolves around one question: How do you differentiate between human and machine intelligence? Or more simply, what makes a human, human?
And although the book possibly provides one answer to that question, through the parallel stories of Adam/Art and Anax, even that answer opens up more questions than it solves.
While you start reading the book casually, the dystopian society of the Republic and its history keep you engaged. (Slight spoiler about direction of the end) And at the same time, it also lulls you so you feel that you know the direction the story is taking, until you are jolted out of it in last few pages, in a fashion any thriller would be proud of (end spoiler).
As I said, the concept and outline of the story doesn’t sound much, but this is one book which grips you till the last page like any good thriller, and raises a lot of interesting questions like any good science fiction.
Quote of The Day:
Art: Define being alive, before I decide you’re too stupid to talk to.
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