Tabula Rasa: The end is nigh … (A Lambeth Group Thriller)

by Gordon Bickerstaff


The world is in chaos with food shortages, riots, droughts, and famines all caused by climate change. Governments, especially those of developed nations have determined that a “My country first” attitude is the only one to take. Into this comes a mysterious group with a plan, Tabula Rasa. Zoe Tampsin, SAS captain, and her colleague Gavin Shawlens, a gifted scientist, must discover the meaning of Tabula Rasa, and stop the destruction of civilization.

Theme of the Book

Tabula Rasa is a novel about power: political, economic, physical, and psychological power. There are those who seek ultimate power and those who use their power for good. In the novel, Mr. Bickerstaff illustrates how easy it would be, in a world losing its foundations, for those with economic and psychological motives to grasp power for themselves.

What I Liked About the Story

There are several admiral elements to Tabula Rasa. First, and most obvious, is the pace of the novel. The story never takes a pause, never leaves the reader time to take a breath as it hurtles through action scene after action scene. This is not to say that the plot revolves solely around action. The plot is complex but the pace keeps the reader turning pages.

Second is the fearless approach to complex problems facing the world today. The author does not hesitate to confront such issues as climate change, resource scarcity, and the hapless response of the developed world to the difficulties of less-developed countries. These issues form the basis for the Silden Tabula Rasa project, a project so secret that the reader learns the facts only three-quarters of the way through the story. Adding Zachary Silsden’s religious mania to the mix only heightens the horror of the tale.

There are a number of distractions or red herrings scattered through the story. These are always believable and certainly do puzzle the reader before the solution is unveiled. Authors often produce distractions that are too obvious, but Mr. Bickerstaff has managed this element of the plot extremely well. Suspicion falls on various characters in turn and the solution is quite dramatic.

Finally, Gavin Shawlens is the most sympathetic and realistic of the characters. Gavin is brave, dedicated, and loyal but also human. He has and shows emotions; he forms relationships; he is afraid in scenes when most of us would be terrified. Most readers will be able to identify more with Gavin than with any other character in the book.

What I Didn’t Like About the Story

Unlike many other reviewers, I did not like the character of Zoe Tampsin. Zoe was perfect for the part she played in the story, but a more unsympathetic and unlikeable character is hard to imagine. Her skills honed in the SAS were certainly called upon and used with great effect throughout the novel, but her humanity was almost never in evidence. Zoe has a family, parents and a daughter, but they are only mentioned in passing and never given much role in her motivation. She is loyal to her brother and to Gavin, but shows no human emotions regarding any other character in the book. She is cold-blooded and seems motivated solely by the need for revenge. It would have been nice to see some humanity in this character.

Second, the ending of the novel felt like a deus ex machina approach to ending the story. I will not give away the ending, but will simply say that if the deciding factor had been mentioned at all earlier in the novel, I missed it.

Final Say

Tabula Rasa moves well and the plot is a fascinating one. No matter what one’s political beliefs are, the novel is based on real possibilities. Fans of thrillers and conspiracies will love this book.

A short warning: this is certainly a novel for adults. There is violence in nearly every chapter, with killings, rape, torture, and beatings happening with astounding frequency. There is strong language throughout.

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