What if there's an unstoppable outbreak spreading all across the world, wiping out whole populations, and the only area left unaffected is an island closed off from any contact with the mainland?
This is the state of the world in Genesis.
Guards on the island have been instructed to terminate on site anything they see floating on the water. If they hesitate, they are also terminated. The people on the island construct for themselves a Sparta-like dystopian society and government called The Republic to maintain their way of life and protect themselves from coming into contact with outbreak victims and carriers; hence the "kill on site" order. This goes on for several decades, maybe even a century, until the islanders no longer know of any news from the mainland. The status of the outbreak and survivors are unknown, yet the islanders maintain their kill order until one day Adam Forde, a guard on duty, saves a girl from the ocean. This one event sets off a domino effect that ripples through The Republic and changes the islanders' whole existence. What follows is a story of a revolution told in bits and pieces.
By the time Genesis begins, all of the above is history, The Republic is a distant memory, and Adam Forde has become a legendary cult hero. We are taken to the present time, moments before Anax takes an entrance exam that will determine the course of her young life. Her chosen subject for the exam is Adam Forde, and through the Examiners' questions and her answers, we learn about Forde, the island, The Republic and its destruction.
I think this book is the perfect example of an author writing about what he knows and achieving impressive results. Bernard Beckett is a high school English teacher from New Zealand with a background in genetic research, and these things come through in his writing, especially his portrayal of Anax's internal struggles and final decision.
The story is set up in the format of an interview with short intersecting internal monologues from Anax's POV. The story itself is interesting, but not that unique in dystopian fiction. The way it unfolds and takes shape, however, is quite impressive. It's not easy to make interviews interesting, even when they're necessary to tell the story, but Beckett has done just that by revealing a little bit at a time.
Also, there's a twist you won't see coming. Or maybe you will...
Since it's short and poignant, I would recommend this book to everyone. Give it a try even if you don't like dystopian fiction.