Merrimon Book Reviews

Socrates and Plato
Plato was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the foundations of natural philosophy, science, and Western philosophy.

From Merrimon Book Reviews
Genesis by Bernard Beckett
by Bernard Beckett        

Futuristic philosophical novel of consciousness and the role of the State

Anaximander sits before the Academy in a four hour examination on her research subject of Adam Forde (2058-2077), an examination which will decide her fate.  Candidates for entrance into the prestigious Academy must face a panel of examiners.  With the internalized support of her mentor's words, Anax presents her interpretation before the Academy examiners.  Both frightened and emboldened when her interpretation veers from orthodoxy, Anax looks into the legend of Adam Forde with new insights not only into the Republic's history, a history that has become a mythical icon in the culture, but also into her own values.  Will her interpretation measure up?

With echoes of Socratic dialogue and Plato's REPUBLIC, Bernard Beckett's GENESIS looks into deeper philosophical questions of consciousness in a futuristic world.  The role of the Republic and the individual in a post-plague world, a world driven to take all necessary measures to defend itself, pits the individual against the State, the automaton against a human individual.  What separates a highly developed robot from a human being?  What is consciousness?  The examination takes Anax into an ever deepening analysis of Adam Forde's actions.  As she answers the questions of the nameless examiners and brings two moments of Adam Forde's life into the present to observe through a hologram presentation, the reader him/herself catches a glimpse of the history behind the culture that built the great Academy and from which Adam Forde arose.  In the beginning, Anaximander's exam has the feel of all those oral defenses undertaken in today's universities, creating a point of similar contact with Anax's hopes, dreams and uneasiness.  Never given individual names, the examiners themselves are faceless.  Just as Anax cannot read their thoughts, neither can the reader.  As she gets deeper and deeper into the subject matter of her presentation, the narrative focuses on her reactions to her subject until the surprising twist at the end.

GENESIS is a philosophical novella set within a futuristic world.  Suspenseful at times, this novel is less a thriller as advertised but rather a look at some of Plato's ideas (some turned on their side), reset in a new futuristic world, a world that re-visions some of Plato's key concepts into a context which shapes a new meaning and outcome.  Although classified as science-fiction, this novel will appeal more to readers fascinated by the concept of consciousness in philosophy than those readers looking for a more classical work of science fiction in terms of the setting details.  The science fiction elements are chiefly developed in the background of the Republic's history and the life of Adam Forde though the examination dialogue.  That being said, GENESIS is a stunning work that leaves this reader fascinated by the questions posed, all the more so because of the multi-leveled setting the author provides.  The ending turns everything on its head.  GENESIS is a powerful, haunting book in a small package that leaves a reader asking essential questions alongside Anax and even after the last page. 

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 20, 2009)
Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Review courtesy of Amazon Vine
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