Monday, March 02, 2009

Book/Magazine Review: Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.

Genesis gives off the vibe of old school science fiction as it's one of those novels where a central idea is distilled into its core philosophies and tackled in the narrative. The usual problem of such books is exposition: just look at Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination where one needs to get over the prologue before the actual story starts. Here, it's integrated transparently as the protagonist is engaged in an exam of sorts thus giving her the perfect excuse to prattle on about her world's history. The text is actually quite functional--it doesn't have the charm of more literary texts and is quite direct and blunt. Strangely enough, at least for me, this didn't detract me from the story. Again, it hearkens to the days of classic science fiction and this one is quite Asimovian.

The book can be divided into four parts, each one representing an hour of the heroine's test. Honestly the first part was the most tedious as it's really a long prologue and gives us the background of the conflict. The other three parts, on the other hand, is well conceived and this is where the recurring theme starts to surface. What I enjoyed about Genesis is that this is very much a philosophical text and there are inferences by Bernard Beckett to the Classics such as Plato and Aristotle, or even the very inclusion of characters named Adam and Eve. Some might interpret this as a cheap trick and to a certain extent, I don't think it was necessary to name the characters as such. Still, it gives the narrative a richer reading, especially considering the concepts and subject matter it tackles.

Overall this was a quick and interesting read. By the time one reaches the end, it becomes evident that there are certain elements that the author deliberately omitted in order to heighten the impact of Genesis. Beckett is reminiscent of the styles of Clarke and Asimov and while that may not have as much appeal as it did several decades ago, it's still a worthwhile technique to employ. I wouldn't say the book grabbed me by the balls but I have no regrets dedicating the time to read this book.

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