By: Madeline Usher

Author: Bernard Beckett

In the weeks since we last met, I have enjoyed a much needed respite from my troubles. Dear old Hubert, the butler Roderick chased from the house with a butcher knife, informed the authorities in town of his master�s violent behavior and attempt at murder. Well, the magistrate, along with a whole crew of henchmen, came to the house and removed Roderick by force. He frothed and screamed like a rabid dog, but they did manage to get him from the house and into a closed carriage. He was taken to an asylum and will remain there until he is more in control of himself. I have not been allowed to visit him as the doctors at the asylum feel it will only excite him.

Normally I would be most displeased at this breach in my family�s privacy but, to be frank, I am grateful to the old man and to the doctors. They have given me a little island of rest. For the first time in many months, I have been able to walk in the gardens, eat my meals in the dining room downstairs, and play the pianoforte in the music room. It has been bliss!

During this time of peace, I have not had much time for my reading. However, I do have one offering for you. There are, again, two books I would like to share with you. The first is a compelling science fiction novel called Genesis by Bernard Beckett. It begins with a student, Anaximander, appearing before an examination panel to, ostensibly, determine her suitability for inclusion in the exclusive �Academy.�

She is tasked with preparing and delivering a presentation on the topic of her choice. The topic she chooses is the life and infamy of a man called Adam Forde, whose revolutionary actions during his life preceded the development of the �perfect� society in which Anaximander [Anax] lives.

Written as a dialogue between Anax and the examiners, Genesis echoes the Dialogues of Plato as well as other works of the earliest philosophers. Through Anax�s presentation, we learn that human society descended into chaos, disease, and war. From this inauspicious beginning, a savior, Plato, constructed a new society called The Republic. The people of The Republic retreated to an uninhabited area of Earth and sealed it off from the outside world by a formidable sea fence. Anyone attempting to enter the waters immediately surrounding The Republic was shot and killed, no questions asked. Adam Forde was a young soldier assigned to guard a certain section of the sea fence and, in one irrevocable moment, he sacrificed his freedom and position in society by not following the maxim �shoot first, ask questions later.� Indeed, he allowed a stranger to enter the realm of The Republic and thus, began the destruction of his entire society--as well as the building of another.

The examiners questioning Anax continually ask her to interpret the events of history through her own personal opinions, something she is reluctant to do. However, their insistence on hearing her personal views culminates in Anax--and the reader--learning the startling and ugly truth behind her beloved society and The Academy.

While a small book, Genesis delivers a solid story that entrances, surprises, and, ultimately, disturbs. Beckett calls into question everything that we believe makes us human beings, what separates us from animals and machines. He peels away the layers of our society and asks us to examine who and what we are.

Genesis was a surprisingly absorbing read and I recommend it to your reading lists. However, some may be put off by the lack of action--Genesis is more a work of philosophy than adventure. However, I believe that if you are patient and set aside preconceived notions of what makes a �science fiction� novel, you will find a great deal of suspense and surprise to keep you entertained.

Well, I will leave you for now, dear friends. The sun is shining and no one is chasing me with a carving knife--life is beautiful today and I will take full advantage by a walk through the grounds.

About the Author

In a gloomy North England mansion, the lady Madeline Usher lives with her brother, Roderick. They are the last of their once great family, the Ushers, noted through the ages as artists and philanthropists. Indeed, Madeline is a writer and celebrated vocalist, often singing the musical pieces composed by Roderick.
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