Genesis – Bernard Beckett

GenesisGenesis is set entirely within the four-hour examination for Academy admission of one Anaximander. The Academy rules the society of the future, and Anax is one of the very few chosen for examination. The examination focuses on her chosen subject, the life of Adam Forde, who committed a peculiar act of rebellion, and received an even more peculiar sentence for his crime.

The story is quite short, a novelette in fact, and is told through the examination dialogue and recreation of historical record. Society has devolved into war and plague, civilization destroyed but for one remote and isolated pocket. This pocket must defend itself against the plagues ravaging the outside, and rebuild into a new society. The second part of the book deals with the nature of consciousness, with surprising results.

The novel is explicitly a reflection and discussion on humanity, on what it means to be human, to be a thinking being. Mr. Beckett cleverly uses Anax’s examination and the history of society and Adam Forde to explore the subject from a philosophical viewpoint without making it tedious philosophical discourse. A very interesting read.

4Rosbochs

 

The Digital Dead – Bruce Balfour

In the setting for novel, one can get an implant that takes a snapshot of the brain at death (a little like in Altered Carbon). This snapshot is transferred to the databanks of the company Elysian Fields and a sort of electronic heaven. So the dead are not really dead. Looks promising, but my first question is: If these dead can be “alive” why don’t they just implant their cybernetic consciousnesses into cyborgs and roam free? This question is answered, but not really to anyone’s satisfaction.

The story is rather complex, with a host of characters being introduced in the first eighty pages or so. It remains complex for most of the novel, but without ever really coming into focus. The driving threat feels abstract and the actions of the characters are rather erratic.

The writing is average. Many good ideas are competently presented, but there is no sign of prose virtuosity. The author tries a bit too hard with the near future clichés, such as “Brooks Armani”, or the worst one yet: “President Schwarzenegger”. Not because it is implausible, but because it is so uncool. His descriptions of locales are formulaic and boring and I found myself skimming through them.

I was left dissatisfied. I could barely work up the energy to finish the book, and it took a long time. Balfour has some great ideas, but does not present them nearly well enough.