Genesis [Book Review]

Title: Genesis
Author: Bernard Beckett
Genre: Contemporary Fiction; Dystopian
ISBN: 0547225490
Pages: 150
Year: 2009
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Dunedin Public Library
Rating: 4.5/5

Plot summary (from Publisher’s Weekly):

Anax, the dedicated student historian at the center of Beckett’s brutal dystopian novel, lives far in the future—the distant past events of the 21st century are taught in classrooms. The world of that era, we learn, was ravaged by plague and decay, the legacy of the Last War. Only the island Republic, situated near the bottom of the globe, remained stable and ordered, but at the cost of personal freedom. Anax, hoping her scholarly achievements will gain her entrance to the Academy, which rules her society, has extensively studied Adam Forde, a brilliant and rebellious citizen of the Republic who fought for human dignity in the midst of a regimented, sterile society. To join the Academy’s ranks, Anax undergoes a test before three examiners, and as the examination progresses, it becomes clear that her interpretations of Adam’s life defy conventional thought and there may be more to Adam—and the Academy—than she had imagined.

Other Books I’ve Read By Author: None

Why I Picked Up This Book: Lots of other book  bloggers were reading and discussing it.

My thoughts:

I sat down one Sunday afternoon earlier this month with the intention of taking a quick break from cleaning, laundry, and the like. I picked up this book to read for a few minutes. I ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting. Granted, it’s a short book, but I was so intrigued and lost in Anax’s world that I didn’t even realize my afternoon was quickly slipping away from me.

Through the medium of her examination to the Academy, Anax tells us the story of how our world became her world and the important role a man named Adam Forde played in it. The whole thing was completely fascinating and not what I expected at all. Not only was the story interesting, the philosophical questions posed by it are thought-provoking. I don’t want to discuss them in detail because I want you all to discover this book on your own, but at the same time, I really want to discuss this story. (I may have forced Ben to read it so that I had someone to discuss it with).

The only fault I have with the story has to do with the ending – not the way it ended, but just one aspect of it. It felt a little too similar to a certain movie from the 1960s (those who have read it will know what I am talking about I hope) and I wasn’t sure if that detail was necessary.

I know I’ve been on a dystopian kick lately and I’ve been recommending a bunch of dystopian novels, but I want you all to read this one, too. I mean it’s only 150 pages and I read it in an afternoon.

Memorable Passages:

“Anax was yet to meet anyone who could say the name without pausing at its significance.” p. 13

“You’re just silicon,” he said, as he turned the page. “And you’re just carbon,” Art persevered. “Since when has the periodic table been grounds for discrimination.” 92

“It was impossible to tell whether it was breath or words he had run out of.” 101

“In rage, in competition, we may say things we do not believe.” 101

“You can’t start with the assumption that machines can’t understand to build up an argument that machines can’t understand.” 109

Will I Read This Author Again?: Yes

Other Reviews:

Buy It Now: Amazon; Powell’s; Book Depository

7 thoughts on “Genesis [Book Review]

  1. Bina February 22, 2010 / 9:19 am

    Great review! This sounds like a great story, and one can never read too many dystopian novels! 😀 My library actually has this book (only in German, but I guess I can´t fault them for that, so I think I´ll read it soon.


  2. Vishy February 22, 2010 / 3:11 pm

    Nice review! The book looks quite interesting! The title is also quite interesting. I also love the cover of the book. I haven’t heard of Bernard Beckett before. He looks like an exciting new writer.


  3. Katelyn February 22, 2010 / 4:57 pm

    Thanks to you Michelle, I now have another dystopian novel to add to my ever growing pile of to-be-read books – they’re teetering precariously on my nightstand. I don’t know what it is, exactly, about dystopian novels that makes me crave them like a chocoholic craves chocolate, but I can’t seem to be able to get enough of them…. I’m definitely more inclined to read this one next (or almost next) given it’s dystopian nature. I guess a trip to Chapters/Indigo is in order (sadly, my hometown lacks a Borders). Anyway, thanks for the review, it was a great review! (On a side note: the author’s from New Zealand, is he not? That’s interesting, I don’t think I’ve read a book by a New Zealand author before.)


  4. Nicole February 23, 2010 / 5:22 pm

    I had no ide that Genesis was so short. I keep hearing about the philosophical questions and that piques my interest, though sometimes I find that with novels like that there isn’t enough to the story and too many questions. I’ll put this on my list to check out at some point.


  5. Dominique February 28, 2010 / 6:39 pm

    I’m really interested in reading this one. Everyone seems to have loved it. 🙂


  6. Jen - Devourer of Books March 4, 2010 / 10:27 am

    I read this book, but I don’t think I saw the movie you’re referring to, or I didn’t make the connection between the two…


  7. Dominique March 13, 2010 / 1:25 am

    I just finished Genesis this afternoon, and I can’t seem to decide what I thought of it, and will have to ponder it quite a bit more before deciding what to write in a review. The philosophical ideas in it were very interesting, at times I must admit I got a bit lost though, or a bit bogged down and started to wish it would move on, which probably speaks more about my own deficiencies than the book’s. The novel totally changed direction from the way I thought it was going to go, which is good in some ways because it seemed like it would be relatively predictable and similar to a lot of other dystopian novels at first. But I’m not sure I liked the ending. The twist was interesting but I didn’t quite understand why the final event was so necessary in the circumstances, just the broad principles about why it happened. It’s difficult to explain because don’t want to be more specific in case I ruin it for others….

    You are right about it being similar to that film, to me Genesis seems a bit like a blend of that movie, a certain Arnold Schwarzenegger film and The Giver by Lowis Lowry. Hmmm….


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