AN award- winning novel by New Zealander Bernard Beckett, Genesis was snapped up by Melbourne’s Text Publishing and recently sold to British publisher Quercus for $ 220,000. It’s easy to see why this philosophical thriller attracted a hefty sum: Genesis is a profoundly sophisticated, brilliantly executed novel for young adult readers that bristles with complex and unsettling ideas. It’s set in a futuristic dystopia, an island republic where refugees are shot on sight and genetic testing is used to divide citizens into castes. The narrative unfurls like a Platonic dialogue between Anax, a clever student who seeks to be inducted into her society’s elite, and a forbidding panel of examiners. While some of the early exposition can be stilted, Beckett accelerates the pace and heightens the tension until his narrative reaches a conclusion so shocking, it’s like a blow to the head. Highly recommended.
Genesis By Bernard Beckett Text Publishing, 145pp, $ 19.95
Fair Dinkum Histories: A Nation of Swaggies & Diggers
By Jackie French Scholastic, 160pp, $ 14.99 WITH research showing youngsters find Australian history a turn- off, parents and teachers should get their hands on Jackie French’s Fair Dinkum history series. French’s series counterpoints dry historical fact with droll humour, arcane political events with a sure human touch. Aided and abetted by Peter Sheehan’s quirky cartoons, the fifth volume in the series covers the period 1880- 1920, summarising events as diverse as Federation, Gallipoli and the life- changing effects of iron stoves.
The True History of Stuff: Volume One
By James Valentine ABC Books, 100pp, $ 19.95 WHEN do three short stories fall short of a satisfying collection? When they are padded out by the author- narrator’s selfindulgent reflections on his subject, as they are here. James Valentine, a well- known radio announcer, needs to put more energy into showing us his stories rather than telling us about them. Nevertheless, his tales about Trapezia, an imaginary country where everyday stuff ( peanut butter, shoelaces, days of the week) originated, are often dazzlingly inventive. They are vividly rendered through his clever, off- thewall humour and Reg ( Mambo) Mombassa’s playful illustrations. The opening story, about a princess whose filthy hair leads to the discovery of shampoo, is a gem.
Squeaky Clean Gene
By Peter Rigby and Bay Rigby Rocket Frog Books, $ 16 THIS oddly charming picture book is the first children’s title from new West Australian publisher Rocket Frog Books. It tells of a dung beetle, Gene, who goes green at the sight of poo. Gene’s hygiene fetish makes him an outcast in his cow- pat worshipping community, but he eventually finds acceptance among his reeking rellies. Strange but fun.