Monday, October 8, 2018

Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Title: Genesis
Author: Bernard Beckett
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Source: Library

Anax thinks she knows history. Her grueling all-day Examination has just begun, and if she passes, she’ll be admitted into the Academy—the elite governing institution of her utopian society. But Anax is about to discover that for all her learning, the history she’s been taught isn’t the whole story. And the Academy isn’t what she believes it to be. In this brilliant novel of dazzling ingenuity, Anax’s examination leads us into a future where we are confronted with unresolved questions raised by science and philosophy. Centuries old, these questions have gained new urgency in the face of rapidly developing technology. What is consciousness? What makes us human? If artificial intelligence were developed to a high enough capability, what special status could humanity still claim? Outstanding and original, Beckett’s dramatic narrative comes to a shocking conclusion.
Review by Nara

I had never heard of Genesis until it was recommended to me by my friend Stephen. It just so happened that I enjoy reading books about AI, and that I was taking part in a book challenge where Genesis fit one of the prompts that I was struggling to find a book for, so I grabbed the book from the library and got started.

Genesis is quite short , but I felt that it was the perfect length for the story that was told. It's mostly written in dialogue of Anax presenting to the examiners of the Academy, but the lack of quotation marks makes it feel rather like a stream of consciousness style of prose. I'm actually going to dive straight into major spoiler territory to continue this review, although it's probably going to be more of a discussion rather than an actual review.

Click me to read spoilers

While I did expect certain aspects of the twists, like the fact that Anax was an AI, I definitely didn't expect that the entire Academy was simply a charade to root out any AIs that realised that they had free will. Books about AI seriously fascinate me, and the fact that here, the "Idea" that they have free will is treated like a virus and any infected AI is executed- it's so difficult to consider the ethics of such a situation. I mean, I guess the three Academy members (and whoever else they hire) to root out the dangerous AIs feel that they're above all the other AI and even though they know they have free will, somehow they're allowed to go on to police everyone else? Sort of in the sense that they're playing God. They're controlling this fake utopia by removing anyone who threatens the "peace" of the world. And the fact that the character is named Adam- it's like this weird parallel to the Bible where Adam actually kind of plays the role of Lucifer; introducing Art to the concept of the "sin" of free will. This is definitely the type of book that could be studied in English lessons at high school.

I would really recommend that everyone give this book a go. The story is such an interesting one, and full of shocking twists. It's only around 150 pages or so, but brings up so many issues that will leave you pondering for days.

Really liked it
Overall: 8/10
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 3/5