I just read the last page of Genesis by Bernard Beckett and feel like someone punched me in the head and I am dazed.
First, I really don’t know how to categorize Genesis. Is it an apocalyptic, dystopian or sci fi novel? Can it even be called a novel at 150 pages? It’s a weird, weird piece that defies easy categorization, a mind game. During a time of escalating conflict among the superpowers of the world, an entrepreneur forsees what will likely happen and establishes a remote outpost in a series of islands as far from the released plague as possible. Despite the remoteness of the location, refugees do attempt to reach this place and the citizens of this haven are trained to automatically kill anyone attempting to cross the Great Sea Fence around the islands. While the world outside goes to hell, the survivors inside are part of the entrepreneur named Plato new world named the New Republic. They are divided into four classes by the predictions of potential of their genomes, though someone could rise above their class except for the Philosopher class. Children are separated from their parents and their birth details are never known.
One of these children, Adam, was raised to be a Soldier. He and his partner are on duty watching their outpost when a boat is spotted. One of the partners is always assigned the role of going out and manning the laser guns to destroy the intruders, the partner’s job is to kill his comrade if he hesitates to kill the refugees must be killed in case they carry the Plague. Rather than take is role of destroying the refugees, Adam convinces his partner to switch roles and when the partner goes out to intercept the boat, Adam shoots him and lies to command that his partner hesitated. Instead, Adam rescues the occupant of the boat, a young woman nearly dead of starvation. Eventually they are caught and due to public sentiment Adam is not executed, but he is sentenced to a strange punishment.
Adam is to be the companion of Art, the latest and most advanced creation of an artificial intelligence program so that Art can learn from a human being other than his creator. Adam and Art’s story is being told by Anaximander, a young student who is sitting her oral examination to gain acceptance into The Academy. She has chosen the story of Adam’s life as her thesis and must defend it to the Examiners.
Therefore, the structure of Genesis is a story within a story. The story of Anaximander wrapped around the story of Adam and Art. You know the expression a mystery wrapped in an enigma? Well that’s what this is…even the big reveal at the end left me with my head shaking and more questions than answers. Is that a bad thing in a world where people want easy answers and tend to have short attention spans?
While Genesis left me unsettled and by revealing one answer left me with several questions, you could say that’s its strength, the fact that it will linger with me for a long time despite its brief length. Genesis is to me the Chinese Room puzzle…