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Sunday, May 03, 2009


Beckett, Bernard. Genesis.

Original, unusual, unpredictable. Beckett's Genesis is a very short novel of ideas, of philosophy, of neuroscience (think Daniel Dennet, Gerald Edelman, Neural Darwinism, Conscious Robots).

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was reading Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works. His opening chapter examines the limits of AI, artificial intelligence, or thinking robots, and it was one of those neat little coincidences that having just finished that chapter, I picked up Genesis, an unexpected Advanced Reader's Copy that arrived that day.

In a distant future, Anax, a young history student, is applying for admission to The Academy (an exclusive order of philosophers/rulers similar to what Plato imagined) and is undergoing an examination.

The narrative consists largely of questions and answers as in the defense of a doctoral thesis. Anax's area of expertise is myth and the young rebel Adam Forde, but the examiners have her respond to questions about Plato and his Republic, the Great War, and other background events in the 21st century before leading her to her topic of interest.

Anax has spent 3 years preparing for this examination, aided by her tutor Pericles. She knows her stuff, but her interpretations differ from the norm concerning Adam Forde and the robot, Art.

What makes us human? What if robots began to self-evolve? An intriguing book that combines beautifully with all of the "brain" nonfiction I've been reading lately. While it may not appeal to everyone, I found this tiny novel immensely provocative , the surprising twist, unexpected.

Fiction. Science Fiction/dystopia/utopia. 2006. 150 pages.


  1. You had my interest at "think Dennet"! Sounds like my kind of story.

  2. Nymeth - Yes, I think you'd like it!

  3. Oh, this sounds good! I'm adding it to my TBr list!