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Genesis by Bernard Beckett

01/05/2009. Contributed by Gareth D Jones

Buy Genesis in the USA - or Buy Genesis in the UK

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pub: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 150 page small enlarged paperback. ISBN: 978-0-547-22549-4. pub: Quercus Books. 185 page hardback. Price: 10.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84724-723-0.

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Unusually enough, 'Genesis' is a novella. It makes a pleasant change to find such a short book from a major publisher, a book that strikes a fine balance between the thrust and immediacy of a short story and the character and societal development found in a novel. It's written in a non-standard format, too, something that I always find appealing and that I've tried myself in several short stories. Again, it's not something you'd normally find in a longer work.

The story is told through Anax, a young woman taking a lengthy oral exam in order to join the elite Academy. Her subject for the exam is Adam Forde, a historical figure who changed society by his actions. Living on an island under strict quarantine controls from the rest of the plague-ravaged planet, Adam disobeys orders to rescue a girl who is washed up in a small boat.

The account of what Adam does and the consequences makes a riveting story in itself and you may be forgiven for initially thinking that Anax and her exam are just padding. The format allows a huge amount of info-dumping about the background and history to be included that you just couldn't get away with in a normal narrative. It doesn't come across as tedious, though, because we are immediately intrigued by Anax, her interest in history and motives for wanting to join the Academy.

We know that the story of Adam has a significance that is both personal to her and of wider impact to society. This is hinted at throughout the book and we want to know what the outcome of his actions was. Through brief flashbacks, we come to know Anax and appreciate her love for history and quest for the truth. By the end, you will be completely hooked, desperate to know what happened to Adam and what will happen to Anax.

This is one of those books that demands to be read from start to finish, and with its 150 page size it's even possible to read it in one sitting. The cover art is very subtle, too, a simple picture yet strangely appealing. This one gets a hearty recommendation from me.

Gareth D Jones

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This book has 12 votes in the sci-fi charts

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