Review: “Generations” by Noam Josephides

“The book”Generations” is SciFi Zone’s winner of the Debut Novel Award for 2024

Like the best Science Fiction classics, Generations reminds us that the future is a canvas of our making, and with it – our definition of being Human.

The novel is set on the generation-ship “Thetis”, which has been making its way to find a new home for humanity for over 8 generations. The plot revolves around Sandrine Liet, an introvert, sassy and quirky female archivist, whose elaborate journey begins with a simple task of interviewing the Thetis elected leader, Sebastian Anderson. Anderson has been undergoing an extortion attempt by one of the ship’s scientists, related to a seemingly marginal scientific project. Sandrine is tasked with investigating the case, and – as expected from the book’s mystery/detective genre – opens a can of worms in which every step she takes and every stone she turns, new clues to a grand conspiracy threaten to overshadow humanity’s entire future.

Or is it?

“Generations” succeeds to extend beyond its genre in a brilliant way by confronting its protagonist with one of the smartest, most sophisticated and charismatic political rivals we’ve read lately. Nothing is what it seems. Every clue has a perfectly benign explanation. And the antagonist puppet-master is protected by seemingly endless layers of front-persons and plausible deniabilities. In quite the timely fashion, Sandrine’s investigation quickly turns from the pursuit of objective truth to a battle over narrative and public perception. At times, we too considered that the whole so-called conspiracy is nothing but the lonely archivist’s paranoia, and that she is on the fast-track to self destruction if she insists on rattling the Thetis’ political hornet’s nest.

Noam Josephides’ talent carries the scents of Polanski’s “Chinatown” all the way to outer-space.

The novel’s true brilliance shines in the evident thinking that went into the worldbuilding of a society where Earth is but a distant memory. There’s is a lot to digest throughout the 450-odd page novel – from the evolution of language and idioms in a world where some basic realities had no longer been present for 180 years (think: how many of our daily phrases and metaphors refer to animals or natural phenomena – both devoid for almost two centuries on the Thetis?), to the adaptation of social values, economic incentives and family structures in a world trying to ensure survival in a flying can across the galaxy.

Like many cultural works dealing with political-conspiracy, Josephides is clearly interested in a much wider array of questions beyond the “whodunnit” plot: the examination of moral values, societal structures and personal ambition as foundational aspects of our species nature, and the if and how we can transcend them if we want to survive long-term.

Final thoughts

“Generations” is a promising debut novel that leaves a lot to wish for in the next works of Noam Josephides – it is thought-provoking, innovative and brimming with emotional depth!