I realized I failed to mention what book I chose. In the end, a beautiful seascape cover won me over. Surprise, surprise.
Here is the review from Amazon: Amazon Best of the Month, April 2009: If robots began to self-evolve, learning to feel and create as we do, what traits would set humans apart--and help us survive? Beckett isn't the first to dramatize this question, and his Genesis pays subtle homage to his predecessors (including Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Philip K. Dick). But his near-future tale feels unique, and oddly credible. As the young historian Anax endures an examination by the Academy--an order of philosopher-rulers as imagined in Plato's Republic--we're brought up quickly on a catastrophic backstory: accelerating climate change, dust storms, rising fear and fundamentalism, the Last War, and the rise of a new Plato, who builds an island republic and seals it behind a Great Sea Fence. Plagues decimate human populations outside, while the Republic's surveillance society (thick with shadows of Huxley, Atwood, and Moore) flourishes under the Orwellian motto "Forward towards the past"--until it falls to forces led by the young rebel Adam Forde. The Academy interrogates Anax on Adam's period of imprisonment with the most advanced android of his time, and we witness their vicious sparring on the virtues of men and machines, the nature of consciousness, and what gives any life worth. It may not sound gripping, but Genesis reads like a thriller to the last word, propelled by the power of ideas longing to be unleashed. --Mari Malcolm
Turns out it won't be serene, romantic, or nostalgic. But I'm optimistic it will be good!