Published December 31st, 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Cover image and synopsis from the Goodreads book page
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.
After finishing this book well over a month ago, I am still tempted to make my review only a few words. Wow, fucking amazing! That’s really every single emotion I have about this book all wrapped up into a succinct package. Also, by talking about the plot too much I will probably give things away and I don’t want to do that. Being spoiled on this book would seriously ruin its impact. This was recommended to me in a Goodreads book club. My “Secret Book Santa”, who was not so secret, looked over my to read list and my read list and thought this was something I’d enjoy. I went into it with no expectations other than that the synopsis grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let it go. I thought about that synopsis for a few days and knew, I needed to give this recommendation a try. And all I can say is, holy fucking shit! Rarely am I rendered speechless or blindsided by a plot.
Here are the things I feel safe saying, so as not to spoil anything:
Anax is taking an Exam to enter into the Academy, which is the ruling body that maintains order in the world. She was asked to choose a topic and prepare a thesis of sorts. She will go before the Examiners for a grueling exam and explain her thesis subject.
Yeah, that’s about it. Anything else is just too much. I will say that initially I was only mildly intrigued with Anax’s thesis and presentation. It was interesting but I struggled to figure out what the point was. All of that changed in the end. About 30 pages from the end I started to get a bad feeling that something was happening here that I hadn’t seen yet and hadn’t expected. I was so beyond right and it was fantastic. I have no doubt this book will be one of my favorites for 2013.