Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Genesis by Bernard Beckett

An interesting piece, meager in its conclusions in certainly way but makes good use of its innovative structure and offers a number of interesting conclusions. The book--really more of a novella--takes the form of an historian seeking entry to the Academy giving her oral defense of an innovative approach to history, in the form of a back and forth dialog that recalls Plato with a lot more contextual exposition. Through this format the book slowly spreads details of the Academy, the society, it's background and the ultimate fate of the protagonist. Has some major but well-grounded twists in unfolding the state of things, and in the process offers a very basic AI element with some well thought out ambiguities. The main story depends more on the final revelation than most stories I enjoy, which does inhibit discussion of the work.

Centering the book on the actual processes of writing and debating history is an interesting work, and makes good use of a major and often under-utilized subtlety of science fiction. It's not exactly ideal in this element--for one thing the basic format of the story requires that four fifths of the history detail be basic facts that would be familiar to everyone in the society, rather than the actual history dispute that actually demonstrates the protagonist's analytical abilities. As well, the way the arguments play out feel rather simplistic at points, and there remain underexplored aspects in the worldbuilding and the main elements. Still, it's ultimately a very interesting, relatively unique tale. Not much for characterization, but given the format of the story as well as the Big Twist that's fairly well justified by the end.

Similar to and better than: R.U.R by Karl Capek

Similar to and worse than: Icehenge by Kim Stanley Robinson

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