Reviewed by Carolyn Martinez
The Rule of Knowledge
by Scott Baker
410 pages, August 20, 2013
Shaun Strickland felt under appreciated, but “took comfort in the fact that most of the great ideas in physics arose long before the means to test them existed… His conceptual ability would have been astounding if anyone around him had understood enough to be astounded. No one did. There were two downfalls to this: it made him frustrated, and it made him bitter.”
I don’t feel inclined to replace Baker’s words with my own to set the scene, because Baker’s are so good. This is a long book – 422 pages. The writing is technically advanced, the plot complex and beautifully interwoven, and the story unravelled through multiple characters, multiple space dimensions, and multiple eras. The quality of the writing, and the complexity of the story and characters had me convinced that Baker was a prolific author I had somehow managed to have not come across before. When I discovered that this was a debut novel from the Australian author, I was more than mildly surprised. This story is tight – not once did Baker lose me in his many character/time/place transitions. It’s easy for authors, especially new authors, to lose their audience with such complexity. Keep this in mind when you read Rule of Knowledge. Baker’s transitions are seamless.
Back to the story. Shaun Strickland and his wife, Lauren, quickly race to the airport when an invitation arrives … finally, for Shaun to be the keynote speaker at a prestigious gathering in Cambridge. The topic: his paper ‘Holes in Space.’ Shaun believes it is possible to travel through time, but until this invitation, his research has gone unacknowledged.
In the dark of the night, and on the way to the airport, they run over a hobo laying on an isolated highway. The unconscious man presents a dilemma; they’re late for their plane, but of course they have to help him. They put him in the backseat and drive on seeking help. He’s unkempt and dirty. His smell pervades the car. A motel is the first sign of civilisation. An ambulance is called, and they settle into a room knowing the wait will be lengthy due to the isolated location. Gunshots break their rest, and Lauren and Shaun are horrified to witness a hit squad kill the motelier and then move room to room looking for more occupants.
What ensues is a heart thumping chase involving an ambulance, killers, and a mysterious diary. Shaun and Lauren don’t survive through luck, they make it to the next town and the local hospital through sheer determination and quick thinking. But at the hospital Shaun’s world is ripped apart when he sees an assassin pointing a gun at his wife and he can’t do anything about it because he’s in a lift and the doors close. A slow ride down in the elevator, and a frantic run back up again … and he’s too late; she’s gone.
He can’t linger and grieve; the hit squad are in the room.
Throughout the action, Baker draws us to the baffling diary, which appears to be what the hit squad are intent on acquiring. Shaun reads the story of Saul; a Roman warrior, looking for clues as to why people are trying to kill him, and why the hobo was protecting the diary with his body.
What I’ve outlined so far is only the mere beginnings of the epic story. This book is jam packed with action, mystery, intrigue, and brainteasers. Each chapter, it’s impossible to predict what happens next. Let me just say that at one point we battle alongside our hero as he is enslaved and entered into a gladiators’ match of all matches. 100 enter the arena, and only 1 walks out. This is just one example of wonderfully drawn stages to lead us to a powerful first hand experience with Jesus on the day he is crucified.
The transitions between Ancient Rome and present day are delightful and interesting.
As Baker takes us between time continuums, a grieving husband, a fierce warrior, supporting characters, and confounding hints, leads, and fast paced action, two things are guaranteed – you will enjoy this book, and you will be surprised. If you saw any of what comes, you’re a much smarter person than me.
Enjoy the ride as you unravel how the worlds of Shaun and Saul collide, and how the world will never be the same again once they do.
I recommend this book to any readers who like to be challenged, entranced, intrigued, and transported to new worlds and new experiences.
About the reviewer: Carolyn Martinez is the author of Inspiring IVF Stories and the President of the Hunter Writers Centre, New South Wales. She is the former owner/editor of The Westerner newspaper, and has a Master of Arts (Writing) through Swinburne University. She consults in corporate communications, and is currently writing her second book, Finding Love Again.