By Bernard Beckett; Read by Becky Wright
4 CDs – 4 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Philosophy / Artificial Intelligence / Freedom /
Anax is a student who wants to enter the prestigious Academy and who is undergoing her final exam. A grueling oral presentation of several hours long given before examiners who conduct question and answer sessions is the device used by Bernard Beckett to show us Anax’s world. Anax’s presentation is about an almost mythological figure of history, Adam Forde. Adam lived in a time when the outside world suffered from catastrophic plagues which were responded to by building a wall around their island republic and shooting anyone who tried to break through. When he breaks one of the republic’s most sacred laws, Adam is put on trial. It is Adam’s crime and trial that Anax analyzes.
As Anax takes us further into Adam’s story we gradually become engrossed in questions of personal freedom versus safety and quality of life that arise. Beckett pushes this question further toward the end where Adam becomes engaged in a life-and-death game of wits that turns on the differences between mechanical intelligence and human intelligence. As Adam struggles to find a defining difference we become involved as well in considering what it is that makes us human.
The examiners are philosophers which, as Plato imagined in The Republic, are the rulers of Anax’s society. The emphasis on philosophy in the question and answer session is anything but dry. Anax is forced to push her knowledge and logic past any limits she has previously imagined in order to perform adequately. Ultimately Anax is forced to the same sorts of examinations that we have been doing through the story, which culminate in an interesting twist.
Becky Wright’s narration perfectly points up the elegant prose and superb style of writing. She does an excellent job especially since there is not a lot of action in the novel and most of it is told through conversation or Anax’s presentation of her story.
This is a short audiobook at only four hours long. Yet it is a gripping four hours. Highly recommended.
Posted by Julie D.