Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Genesis by Bernard Beckett

The day has arrived for Anaximander (Anax) to face the panel of Examiners for admittance to the Academy.  It is a day for her to make or break her future, it is the only chance she will have to enter the Academy and find a place in a society where she finds herself always a little behind or away from everyone else.  The next three hours will decide her future and her fate - and oral examination with questions and answers carefully built around her topic.  It is a nerve-wracking prospect and Anax only feels ready to face the examination because of the coaching and support from her tutor Pericles.

The examination is a test of her knowledge of Adam Forde, a man who has helped forge the modern state in which they live - it is an unusual topic for an examination and one Anax has spent time studying for and preparing.  Her search for information has lead to discoveries and interpretations that are completely new - something Anax hopes will bring her to the attention of the examination board as she peels back the layers of Adam Forde's life - a life that is not as it has always been portrayed.  As the examination proceeds Anax finds her beliefs and knowledge tested as never before, and when the examination panel reveals a hidden truth her mind is sent reeling.

Genesis is one of those books that gets under your skin and makes you think about what is happening now, what could happen in the future, and what it means to live in a society protecting itself from a future they see as dangerous.  I first read this book when it was released and was one of the few people I knew who got really hooked on the story from the start and didn't put it down again until I was finished.  The main reason for people to struggle was the fact the story is told like a transcript of the examination with flashes in between of what Anax is feeling - this was a very unusual format for the time and some people didn't gel with the idea.  Reading it again this time it took a few pages to settle back into the story because I had forgotten about the unusual style - but I was very quickly absorbed in the story and read it to the end in one sitting.

While I love Genesis because it is by a New Zealand author and set in a future New Zealand, this story could just as easily have been set anywhere in the world - the isolation of New Zealand is a perfect backdrop for the history of the society, but the current society could have been anywhere in the world.  There are many elements here that would be described as purely didactic, but I prefer to describe it as a well thought out glimpse of a future that could be just around the corner - perhaps it could even be described as an early precursor for all those post apocalypse and dystopian novels out there! 

Genesis won't appeal to everyone because of its unusual style, but the mind-blowing ending is just that - mind-blowing.  It is not surprising that Genesis is an award winning book having won both the Esther Glen Award for children's literature and a New Zealand Post Book Award.  Another no holds barred novel from Bernard Beckett - enjoy.

If you like this book then try:
  • Tomorrow the dark by Ken Catran
  • Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody
  • Box by Penelope Todd
  • Winter of fire by Sherryl Jordan
  • Slated by Teri Terry
  • Bodies and soul by David Hill
  • Nest of lies by Heather McQuillan
  • After edited by Ellen Daltow and Terri Windling

Reviewed by Brilla

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