Anax thinks she knows history. Her grueling all-day Examination has just begun, and if she passes, she’ll be admitted into the Academy—the elite governing institution of her utopian society. But Anax is about to discover that for all her learning, the history she’s been taught isn’t the whole story. And the Academy isn’t what she believes it to be. In this brilliant novel of dazzling ingenuity, Anax’s examination leads us into a future where we are confronted with unresolved questions raised by science and philosophy. Centuries old, these questions have gained new urgency in the face of rapidly developing technology. What is consciousness? What makes us human? If artificial intelligence were developed to a high enough capability, what special status could humanity still claim? Outstanding and original, Beckett’s dramatic narrative comes to a shocking conclusion.
This was recommended to me by a friend on goodreads and as I am trying to read 24 dystopians this year and the book had amazing reviews I decided to go ahead and download is for my kindle (it was only 98p). When I started it I was expecting it to be like a lot of other dystopia at the moment but it was totally different. The style of writing isn’t the usual you would find in Young Adult fiction. The story is told as an exam of the societies history and it almost feels like you are reading a piece of educational text. The character we are seeing from is a 17 year old girl but she is studying the creation of their society by telling the examiners about Adam and Art. During their time their island has been cut off from the rest of the world because of a dangerous plague destroying the world. Adam is a bit of a trouble maker in this new society and so he finds himself sentenced to help a philosopher with his work into artificial intelligence, Art. Through their interactions the book questions humanity. The pair argue about consciousness;
“Consciousness is the feel of accessing memory.”
“The mind is not a machine, it is an idea. And the Idea resists all attempts to control it.”
“The only thing binding individuals together is ideas. Ideas mutate and spread; they change their hosts as much as their hosts change them.”
and our narrator Anax offers beautiful definitions of human spirit;
“Human spirit is the ability to face the uncertainty of the future with curiosity and optimism. It is the belief that problems can be solved, differences resolved. It is a type of confidence. And it is fragile.”
“Superstition is the need to view the world in terms of simple cause and effect. As I have already said, religious fundamentalism was on the rise, but that is not the type of superstition I am referring to. The superstition that held sway at the time was a belief in simple causes.
Even the plainest of events is tied down by a thick tangle of permutation and possibility, but the human mind struggles with such complexity. In times of trouble, when the belief in simple gods breaks down, a cult of conspiracy arises. So it was back then. Unable to attribute misfortune to chance, unable to accept their ultimate insignificance within the greater scheme, the people looked for monsters in their midst.
The more the media peddled fear, the more the people lost the ability to believe in one another. For every new ill that befell them, the media created an explanation, and the explanation always had a face and a name. The people came to fear even their closest neighbors. At the level of the individual, the community, and the nation, people sought signs of others’ ill intentions; and everywhere they looked, they found them, for this is what looking does.”
“But time passes. Fear becomes a memory. Terror becomes routine; it loses its grip.”
I don’t feel I can really say to much about the thoughts offered in this books because they are best as they are presented. I would recommend this book to those who love the classic dystopians like 1984 because this book isn’t about what happened but what was discussed and in the end it will surprise you because you might think you know whats coming but it’s not as you expect.
“In the end, living is defined by dying. Book- ended by oblivion, we are caught in the vice of terror, squeezed to bursting by the approaching end. Fear is ever-present, waiting to be called to the surface.”