January 24, 2012

Man versus machine

by Bernard Beckett

Anaximander is taking her examinations. If she passes, she will be admitted to the Academy. The Academy runs her society. The subject of Anax's exam is a man named Adam Forde, a long-dead hero.

Forde had disobeyed directives in a matter of security and was imprisoned. In prison, he engages in a philosophical debate with an android named Art. At issue is whether a machine possesses consciousness and whether a machine is superior to man.

Anax has always felt that Forde was an important figure in her society's history, but her beliefs will be greatly shaken by the end of her examination.

Genesis is a very cerebral novel, dealing as it does with nature, philosophy, and free will. It is not an easy book to read, especially since the society's history is difficult to grasp. Only until the very last pages does the true horror of Anax's situation become clear.

The book is not a good choice for casual or reluctant readers. However, it would be very suitable for those who like thought-provoking science fiction, or have previously enjoyed Brave New World, 1984, or Animal Farm.

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