Thursday, 4 June 2009

Book review - Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Fourteen-year-old Anax is about to take the examination. The examination will determine her fate in the Republic, a community cut off from the rest of the world. She has four hours, three examiners, and a whole lot of knowledge on her special subject, Adam Forde. But there might be more to the exam than meets the eye. The examiners seem to know more about Adam Forde than the official history. And if that’s the case, why are they letting Anax in on the secret?

Genesis was different. The most obvious difference is the writing style, which is a complex written transcript of the exam, with small sections from Anax’s point of view. It took me a few chapters to get used to this format – at first it felt quite static – but it was cleverly done, so although the entire story only lasts four hours, the retellings of the past give it pacing and a sense of distance and time.

Anax is an interesting character. As a historian, especially while she’s being examined, she tries to think logically and coherently, so tries to suppress her emotions somewhat. It’s interesting to see a character who is passionate about their favourite subject, but attempts to quash that passion and be analytical in her approach. With each exchange between Anax and the examiners, a further layer of complexity in the development of the republic is revealed. The history of the republic is carefully woven into the tale. As each development is explained, it brings the history closer to Anax’s present reality until it comes to involve her explicitly.

Genesis is clever, with some surprising twists and plotting. It’s also what I’d call an ‘issue-raiser’ book, questioning Anax’s world, rights, and morality, but not presuming to answer these for the reader, instead giving space for you to consider this yourself. Genesis would be great as a discussion book, ideal for book clubs, or even school English lessons.

Personally, I find I need a bit more movement in a book, but that’s more to do with my impatience than the book’s pacing. I also found Anax a difficult character to relate to, so methodical and controlled was she. I found however, that I was watching her with interest – as though the entire book was in third person. It was an interesting effect, perfect for the character. As I’ve said, Genesis is a clever book, but it didn’t elicit a reaction from me. I was interested in the outcome, but I wasn’t emotionally involved.

All in all, a thought-provoking, somewhat unique read. It’s definitely been cleverly crafted and worth reading. What do you think of the Uk’s shiny new hardback cover (first picture)? This is a tough one for me. I like it, but for some reason it makes me think non-fiction. It makes me expect a humorous fact-filled book about nature, like a QI book or something.


  1. This one - like too many - is also on my TBR list! Definitely one I'm looking forward to read!

    I agree with you for the book cover, it left me with the same kind of non fiction, humorous impression. And, the cover with the water and air is just SO pretty, it's without hesitation my favorite of the two!

  2. Fascinating review - thank you very much. I see what you mean about the cover, too!

  3. Wow, look at that cover! That's so... weird. I'm used to the gray one, lol. This was a nice review, different from what I've read and what I've written about it myself. I think it's one of those books that is probably wrongly categorized as YA? It delves into a lot of deeper issues for me--like artificial intelligence--that I enjoyed this more as experimental adult fiction (for its format) than as a YA read.

  4. I love this review and it sounds like a really interesting read. I like that you said it's cleverly written although I do like books with a nice pace. I might give this a try :)

  5. Great review, I'm reading this next I think. I don't like the UK adult cover, I prefer the UK YA one, which is the same as the US. It's shiny and cool!

  6. I think you hit the nail on the head. It was a very clever book, but I didn't get emotionally involved. That kept it from being a perfect book for me, but I still thought it was great.

  7. The US cover suits the book more I think. It's a bit - desolate maybe? Anyway, I do prefer it.
    Thankyou all for your nice comments!

  8. I was unsatisfied with the ending. It all seemed like such a waste, especially Adam's struggles. But overall the book was trully provocative!