The final page has been turned, the book closed and rested on my chest. How best can I describe my current state? Disorientation? Lightheadedness? General strangeness? Bernard Beckett just shocked the blazes out of me with his ending to Genesis. Even the hair blowing on the front cover remained mysterious and ownerless until the last few pages of the book!
I join the legions of Goodreaders questioning the "YA" tag on Genesis. Sure, the main character appears to be a young adult, but why limit the potential readership of this gut-wrenchingly fantastic book by connecting the work with a specific age group? I see no reason for the "YA" tag.
What makes us human? Should Artificial Intelligence be considered consciousness? What is the value of an individual life? What lengths should a society go to in protecting its citizens? What is the ideal relationship between the State and the individual? Do eugenics and utopia necessarily go hand in hand? I could rattle off a million other questions and ethical conundrums arising from this relatively short 150 page work.
I love Anax's seemingly simple explanation for the deepening relationship between Adam/human and Art/AI: "If you listen like me, if you talk like me, then in time, no matter how many reasons I may have for believing otherwise, I will come to treat you as one of my own." But even the simplest of explanations becomes complex in Beckett's hands. True, humans can learn to love pets, enemies, even material possessions. But what about AI? Can AI befriend or become more human in any meaningful sense? It's Beckett's answer to this question, coming in the final moments of Genesis, that gave me the willies. Beckett's is far from a hopeful, progressive vision.
The interview format, hidden holographic histories, delay of any meaningful physical description of the main character Anaximander, Anax's gradual enlightenment, deep philosophical inquiry, the post-apocalyptic/dystopian setting - Beckett uses these devices to perfection in Genesis. An absolute must-read!