Author: Bernard Beckett
Genres: Dystopian, Sci-Fi
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Date Published: April 20th, 2009
Anax thinks she knows history. Her grueling all-day Examination has just begun, and if she passes, she’ll be admitted into the Academy—the elite governing institution of her utopian society. But Anax is about to discover that for all her learning, the history she’s been taught isn’t the whole story. And the Academy isn’t what she believes it to be. In this brilliant novel of dazzling ingenuity, Anax’s examination leads us into a future where we are confronted with unresolved questions raised by science and philosophy. Centuries old, these questions have gained new urgency in the face of rapidly developing technology. What is consciousness? What makes us human? If artificial intelligence were developed to a high enough capability, what special status could humanity still claim? Outstanding and original, Beckett’s dramatic narrative comes to a shocking conclusion.
This is the third time I’m trying to write this review. Not for lack of things to say, but for fear of 1) giving away too much and ruining this book for other people, and 2) not doing the book justice. In this version of my review I hope to not do either of those things. One review I read after reading the book said it perfectly. Basically this is a book that is best to go into as blindly as possible. If you know too much about it before going into it, it could potentially ruin the book for you. The discovery is the majority of the enjoyment with this one, trust me!
While it comes in quite a small package at just 150 pages, this book packs quite a punch. It’s a book that really makes you think. Primarily about the human condition. What does it really mean to be human?
The book itself is written in a the format of the main character, Anex, delivering essentially her thesis to a board of advisers in her attempt to join The Academy. Because of this sort of academic setting, the delivery of dialog and the overall feel of the book is a bit cold and detached, but not without reason! In fact, the way it’s written is actually a lot more engaging than I originally anticipated when I first dived into the book.
I don’t think I’m going to say any more. Trust me, I want to. This is a book that would be a fantastic book club read (if you’re in one) because it brings about a lot to think about, and a lot you just want to talk about with someone else who has read it. But in an effort to allow you to discover that on your own, I recommend this book if you’re looking for something very different from the normal dystopian, but something that stands very strong and will really make you think about…well, a lot of things. If you enjoy philosophy even the tiniest bit, or just the idea of thinking more about our place in the world, then I think you’ll enjoy this one. I know it’s left quite the impression on me, and I already want to read it again for things I might have missed the first time through!