by Glenn Cooper
In a modern-day search for the Holy Grail, Mr. Cooper weaves a tale rich with science and history as the story moves back and forth through time.
Arthur, a chemist and descendant of Thomas Malory, the real-world scholar who wrote the definitive text on King Arthur himself (Le Morte d’Arthur), is a member of a group of Grail enthusiasts who spend their free time searching for the ancient relic. A member of the group makes an exciting discovery and before he can pass it on to Arthur he is murdered. Arthur picks up his trail and begins to unwind the mystery, gathering clues that further him on his quest for the relic.
Another dangerous group of Grail hunters, the Qem, will stop at nothing to obtain the cup for themselves and play a complicated game to get Arthur to find it for them.
The meat and bones of this story are in its history and its scientific backing. Exhaustive research would have been needed to write this book, and much of the presented material rings true.
Nevertheless, one of the strengths of the book is also its weakness as a lively tale bogs down while supportive details are presented. History buffs and Round Table experts will no doubt add at least an extra point of rating for its authenticity. And this detail isn’t a bad thing at all; it just keeps it out of the rip-roaring territory.
Toward the book’s end history gives way to science, and here the author is able to present facts that may sound dry in a classroom with an exciting front. Dark matter, multiple dimensions and quantum mechanics are all used to the effect of, ‘well, traditional science breaks down here and we don’t really know what will happen.’ It works well and has solid scientific backing, and these are interesting, modern lines of thought to contemplate. And not many today really want to know this stuff, partly because it’s complicated, and partly because it means when your kids ask you if there’s such things as monsters, you’d have to answer, “I don’t know.” The book both begins and ends with a good deal of scientific explanation, and this is a strong point.
It’s a good story, meticulously researched and asks the right questions of science. If it maintained the science and lightened up a tad on the history the pace could probably have been improved, but the overall story might have suffered without the background. It’s up to you.
“This Grail you’ve talked about,” Melton asked, “this would be the same as in Monty Python and the Holy Grail?”