Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Set in 2075, this brief novel concerns an isolated island society created as a refuge from an otherwise devastated planet. Founded on the model of Plato's Republic, it stresses security and order over freedom. A young woman named Anax is about to take her entrance examination to the elite Academy, the island's governing institution. Her exam centers on the story of Adam Forde, a soldier who rescued a young girl from an approaching raft (outsiders are to be shot on sight as potential carriers of the plague) in a rare example of freedom of choice. Offering a riskily original interpretation of his trial and sentence (he must work with an advanced robot named Art in order to enhance its intellectual development), she will discover that Adam's story and the Academy itself are far different from what she imagined. Framed as something of a 21st-century Platonic dialog with an sf twist, this deeply philosophical if somewhat didactic novel is ultimately successful in conveying its message about the potential consequences of the interaction of humanity, technology, and the environment. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/08.]-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, North Andover, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Anax, the dedicated student historian at the center of Beckett's brutal dystopian novel, lives far in the future-the distant past events of the 21st century are taught in classrooms. The world of that era, we learn, was ravaged by plague and decay, the legacy of the Last War. Only the island Republic, situated near the bottom of the globe, remained stable and ordered, but at the cost of personal freedom. Anax, hoping her scholarly achievements will gain her entrance to the Academy, which rules her society, has extensively studied Adam Forde, a brilliant and rebellious citizen of the Republic who fought for human dignity in the midst of a regimented, sterile society. To join the Academy's ranks, Anax undergoes a test before three examiners, and as the examination progresses, it becomes clear that her interpretations of Adam's life defy conventional thought and there may be more to Adam-and the Academy-than she had imagined. Though the trappings of Beckett's dystopian society feel perhaps too Brave New World, the rigorous narrative and crushing final twist bring a welcome freshness to a familiar setup. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Anaximander, Anax for short, lives in an island nation that has survived an apocalyptic plague by constructing a great sea fence and destroying all who approach. The tightly closed society has evolved into a rigid but seemingly benign hierarchy. Anax, hoping to join the Academy the ruling class of thinkers must submit to an oral examination regarding her chosen subject, Adam Forde, a hero from the island's past. It's tempting to dismiss this novel at first as a fictionalized philosophy dissertation it unfolds as a transcript of the examination itself, complete with visual aids, and offers us limited access into the minds of the characters. Moreover, there are references to a period when the society called itself Plato's Republic; characters have philosopher's names; and some dialogue mimics the Socratic method. But appearances can be deceiving: this slim novel of big ideas (its subject is nothing less than the nature of consciousness) overcomes a slow start to grip the reader in a thrilling combination of action and ideas. And the ending is an absolute mind-blower worthy of sf's classic texts.--Graff, Keir Copyright 2009 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Dystopian vision of a future Earth almost wholly engulfed by environmental catastrophe. New Zealand author Beckett's slim first novel is a curious mix of science fiction, Platonic dialogue and An Inconvenient Truth. The story is framed around the four-hour oral examination of Anaximander (aka Anax), a female student who hopes to enter the Academy, home to the elite of what is now a rigidly stratified society. By the 2050s, we learn early on, the planet was overwhelmed by war, terrorism and global dust storms, prompting an entrepreneur named Plato to create an island haven in the Southern Hemisphere protected by a Great Sea Fence. Interlopers attempting to enter were killed on sight for fear of an invading plague, and Anax's exam focuses on a case of a crack in the system. Adam Forde was a soldier who in 2075 spotted a girl in a boat approaching the barrier and held his fire. Beckett relates this back story in question-and-answer format, with Anax responding to her three examiners. He avoids the danger of an overly talky narrative, however, by incorporating movielike holograms into Anax's examination, which work to illustrate key moments in Forde's life. This enables the author to add some descriptive passages to ease the rigors of the novel's more philosophical second half, focusing on the interactions between the imprisoned Forde and Art, a robot empowered with high-end artificial-intelligence technology. Art is so empowered, in fact, that he's a little smug about ithe routinely argues for his superiority over mortal, emotional humans. The book is clearly making a statement about the consequences of environmental neglect. Indeed, Beckett is stronger with philosophical fare than with plottingthe book's final twist is old hat. But he's earned the right to deploy a pulp-sci-fi clich or twohis conception of a broken world and the role technology plays in it is convincing. A cannily constructed portrait of a global worst-case scenario. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.