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For Readers Age approx. 14+
Grades 10+

Genesis by Bernard Beckett - Review
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Publisher's Summary:

Beckett, Bernard. (2006) Genesis. London: Quercus Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84724-930-2. Author age: young adult. Litland recommends age 14+.

Publisher Description:  The island Republic has emerged from a ruined world. Its citizens are safe but not free. Until a man named Adam Forde rescues a girl from the sea. Fourteen-year-old Anax thinks she knows her history. She’d better. She’s sat facing three Examiners and her five-hour examination has just begun. The subject is close to her heart: Adam Forde, her long-dead hero. In a series of startling twists, Anax discovers new things about Adam and her people that question everything she holds sacred. But why is the Academy allowing her to open up the enigma at its heart? Bernard Beckett has written a strikingly original novel that weaves dazzling ideas into a truly moving story about a young girl on the brink of her future.


Respect for self and others: This includes integrity (adherence to a code of conduct or value system), honesty vs. manipulation or lying, compassion, caring for others (characters not focused on getting their way no matter what) self respect--main character does not let others denigrate him or her; use of self control and self-discipline ; taking charge of own behaviour; fairness to others (such as taking turns and avoiding the blame game). Reader should ask themselves “How does the protagonist depict their peers?” “Would you want others to treat you this way? Should everyone act this way?” This includes true friendships that do not involve regular lying, deceit or manipulation; considering consequences of actions prior to acting; owning up to responsibility once an action has been taken.

This story delves into the intellectual rather than the relational and so the representation of characters relating to one another is minimal.  As our protagonist, Anax, reflects upon her schooling and society as a whole, we see her admiration for characters that demonstrate compassion and self-control. She herself demonstrates these qualities as well, particularly in her relationship with her tutor, Pericles.

Portrayal of Authority figures: The positive portrayal of parents, teachers, police officers and other “good” authority figures common in a child’s life is a positive influence upon the child’s own moral development. This includes actively-parenting mother and father figures. Minimization of parental involvement in the character’s activities or the portrayal of authority figures as inferior present poor role models. Also to be avoided are main characters that deceive parents and teachers to accomplish goals, and overuse sarcasm towards authority figures. Ask yourself “Are parents seen as positive or negative influence in the character's life?”

The hierarchy of this fictional world is different from our own but inoffensive. Thus children are removed from families and reared separately.  Of primary influence to the story are the examiners before whom Anax is presenting her knowledge and life’s work. They are portrayed as societal judges, stern and rigid but rarely condemning. Pericles her tutor is respected by her as a type of authority. Their societal myth of Adam, a hero, rebukes authority in a typical teen fashion early on but then in a more mature manner when choosing to save a life.


Citizenship and Patriotism: Loyalty to family, team or group, school, community and world; caring for and being considerate of these groups. Pride to be part of that group or nationality.

Anax is driven to succeed in her examinations because of her passion for and loyalty to her society. Her patriotism and love of her society is strong.

Justice and Balance: A just distribution between good and evil (with good outweighing evil in the presence of the storyline); demonstration of right and wrong; making decisions to enact the above values rather than simply choosing from two bad possibilities; Ask yourself “Is the emphasis on the positive elements or negative?”


The reader is left to question what is good and what is evil; right and wrong. The mythical hero Adam is imprisoned for a seemingly good act, and much of the story then involves his imprisonment.  The Philosophers (highest in the societal hierarchy) evolved so as to no longer distinguish right from wrong (“right is as right does”).  So underlying the main storyline is this sense of transition from absolute morals to relativism; from freedom to a controlled society. As often occurs in a science fiction novel, (SPOILER ALERT)  the ending does leave our heroine as victim; thus one might feel evil prevails.

Aesthetic aspects Of life ExperienceLook for a storyline portrayal of beauty, health, and selfless love vs. hedonistic behaviours (sexuality, selfishness, obsessiveness, materialism), profanity, gore and violence. Are nature and environment respected or exploited? Look for dark elements; watch out for humor that is negative, denigrates others excessively, uses metaphors to denigrate the sacred.

Apocalyptic, yet not overly dark and in some ways life affirming. A historical figure in society, Adam Forde was almost “terminated” as a baby because of genetic imperfections, hinting of genetic testing and genocide. Adam insists there is a difference between humans and all other creation, whether natural or man-made. Consciousness, instinct, and even the “ancient Idea” of a soul come into consideration.  Adam refers to his created self as a miracle, although confirming the source of life as similar to the Big Bang theory.  

Only a few instances of profanity occur. Story is clean of hidden agendas, and description of action and violence is sufficient to place reader into the event without undue attention. Although the storyline questions the essence of humanity, there is no denigration of creation or things sacred.  There is reference to Adam sneaking out to “have” women but no sexuality.  

The writing quality itself is rich and thought provoking without being overly complex. Example (p. 65 para. 5) “ The only thing binding individuals together is ideas. Ideas mutate, and spread; they change their hosts as much as their hosts change them. “

Other things to Consider:Other aspects of this book of interest or importance. For example, does it portray Wiccan practices and accurate use of tools of which some parents might object, does it contain hidden meanings in metaphors that may prove offensive to some families; does it address personal issues such as puberty or pregnancy.

Due to the issues addressed in the story line, including Adam’s womanizing, military guards killing guards, orders to exterminate outsiders upon site, etc., as well as the focus on defining what is human, and the evolution of absolute right/wrong into relativism, the story itself is intense and so not recommended for younger advanced readers. encourages parental discretion in accordance with their family Do-Re-Mi’s. 

This book is highly recommended for book clubs, high school book lists, high school/college philosophy or literature class, youth/college ministries, and other situations involving discussion of the story’s meaning.


So what do YOU think? Read our thoughts on the book and join in the discussion: Litland's Blog   

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