First up is Genesis by Bernard Becket was first published in New Zealand in 2006, but it first came to my attention in early 2009 when reviews started cropping up all over the blogosphere due to its release in the US.
It sounded like just my kind of thing, so it went straight on the wishlist, but it wasn’t until I was getting ready for YA-D2 that I managed to snag a copy.
And while it’s not a perfect book, it was definitely a perfect start to this years challenge, as it is very different to any dystopia book I’ve come across previously. Dystopian novels whether YA or adult tend to ask questions of their readers, but this one takes that to the nth degree! But I’m getting ahead of myself… First you need to know a little about the plot!
Starting in the year 2030 the world starts to fold in on itself, fear of genetic engineering, rising terrorism, questionable morals in European governments, and a terrible worldwide plague pandemic, cause a small island republic to shut itself off from rest of the world, building a huge sea-fence and then vigorously defending it. Killing all that approach.
Fast forward an undefined number of generations and 14 year-old Anaximander, is about to start a grueling 4 hour entry exam, for The Academy, the republic’s ruling élite.
Her chosen area of expertise, is her hero Adam Forde, a man who once rebelled against the strict rules guarding the republic and pulled a young female refugee from the sea, instead of killing her, and is considered by some to be among the republic’s early guiding lights.
The entire novel is taken up with Anax’s thesis and exam, as through her own knowledge and the prompts of her examiners, she unravels the truth of Adam Forde’s life. In some aspects the leads to a slightly dry reading experience, but, it is a gripping one, as you are forced to engage your brain and consider the philosophical questions Beckett presents.
Soon after his rescue of the girl, Adam Forde is arrested and eventually sentenced to prison, and has to participate in an artificial intelligence program, this means he is forced to spend time with Art, an Android. It is hoped that Adam’s questioning personality will help develop Art’s AI.
As the story unravels we are asked to consider human consciousness, the nature of a human soul, origins of life and all that supposedly separates us from animals or machines.
It’s a hard book to describe but hopefully you get the idea. And I could talk about it for ages, it is the kind of book that will stay with you after you close the final page…
We are thrown straight into the exam, which means that we don’t really get to know much about Anax, as much as I would have liked, and while a certain amount of ambiguity is needed for the books ending to work, (and even though I did work some of it out before the reveal) it could have been all the more powerful if we had been encouraged to care for her a little more, as it is we get to know more about Adam than our narrator.
As my mention of a reveal might lead you to guess, yes there is a twist at the end, but I do hesitate to call it that, because twists should come out of nowhere (although they need to make sense), but really what is revealed is the only thing that could have happened, and for the most part it’s already there in the text.
As a book that will stay with me, it couldn’t do better, as a book I actually ‘enjoyed’ reading then, not quite as much. I’m very much a character based reader, so when I’m distanced from them, I never enjoy it as much.