Friday, July 31, 2009

The future's so grim, I gotta wear shades

If you are looking for a brief story about a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world, Genesis is your book. The framing device is an entry exam to the Academy, an elite and apparently ruling organization in a future polity modeled on Plato's Republic. The candidate has four hours to present an argument in hopes of joining the mysterious institution. Candidate Anaximander chooses to discuss the life of Adam Fforde, a key historical figure in this world.

Author Bernard Beckett packs quite a bit into this slim volume. You get discussions of artifical intelligence, the role of memes in society, the role of the state and power and commentary on the current world. If that seems like a lot to pack into a short book, it is. Not only that, but we get a mix of Biblical and ancient Greek references. These make sense for the story that Beckett tells, but I think it muddles the book a bit.

The ideas flow by so fast that they can get lost. In the end, I think this is OK, as the book is more about a story of politics and the ideas give flavor to the ultimate resolution. This one got quite a bit of buzz, I think because of the post-apocalyptic element which continues to find favor in today's media. The Wall Street Journal has a nice piece on upcoming post-apocalyptic movies and TV. It's worth a read.

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