Saturday 11 February 2017

To the Close of the Age by KennethT. Zemsky.

To the Close of the Age

In spring 2033 husband and wife scientists Jason and Rebecca invent the world's first time machine.  After a few brief trials sending inanimate objects through time, and with fuel for only one trip, they decide to visit the most significant moment in human history: the first Easter in 33 AD, to see if Jesus actually rose from the dead and to bring back proof to the modern world.  

It turns out time travels in waves, and en route Jason makes a brief visit to 14th century France, where he helps a young couple attacked by brigands.  In return, they present him with a gift of woven fabric.  Jason continues his journey to the time of Christ, landing near Bethany during Holy Week.  He visits Martha, Mary and Lazarus who provide him directions to Jerusalem where Jesus is praying in solitude before the high holy days. 

A freak accident knocks Jason and another bystander unconscious.  When Jason recovers, it is Holy Thursday and with his knowledge of history, he heads to the Garden of Gethsemane, unwittingly leading members of the Sanhedrin to arrest Jesus.  It turns out the other man who had been injured was Judas, on his way to betray Our Lord.  

Jason is unsuccessful in trying to prevent Jesus' execution.  He helps carry the lifeless body to the tomb, where the fabric he had received is used as the burial shroud. Overwhelmed with grief he fails to witness the Resurrection. However while bemoaning his fate, he comes in contact with the risen Lord. Convinced that time travel entails too much risk, Rebecca destroys the device and the couple decides to remain in the first century, where they become part of the earliest Christian community.

The Guru's Review: 

The author asked me to review his novel. I had my reservations as it had a Catholic flavour to it. However, when I discussed this with the author, he assured that despite him being a Catholic, his intent was for it to be a Christian book, not just a Catholic one. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. 

This novel is well constructed. Zemsky writes well and the plot flows like a babbling brook, no peaks or troughs. The pace is steady and keeps you coming back for more. I appreciated the humour included and it was a good balance to the suspense necessary in a novel like this. The author has three major plot lines that run alongside each other. As you read, you can see that at some stage these are destined to intersect. You also perceive that when they do, the collision is going to make the outcome explosive and suspenseful. That is exactly how it occurs and it is done well. I appreciate the research the author conducted both on the historical and the scientific aspects of the plot.

I did enjoy these aspects of the novel. 

What I did not enjoy about this novel is the spiritual aspects of the plot. I became very frustrated and disappointed with these. 

As stated above, this novel does have a Catholic flavour. It does show some of its doctrines. One example is Peter being appointed as Pope by Jesus himself. Many commentaries suggest that what Jesus based His church on was the testimony of who Peter states Jesus is and not based on Peter because he said this. 

Another is Father Carlo's attitude to prayer. He feels unworthy of coming into the Lord's presence and confessing his sin.Yet, it is just this that the bible states we are to do. Instead, he prays to two "saints", Thomas Aquinas and Peter the Apostle imploring them to act on his behalf to God. 

These two doctrines alone reminded me of the reasons I left the Catholic church of my upbringing. Amongst other reasons, I see that these are contrary to what the bible says about these issues. I was hoping I would not experience this while reading this novel and it was one of the reasons I had doubts whether to read it or not. When the author stated above that he wanted to write a Christian novel and not just a Catholic one, I was hoping that Catholic doctrine would not be included or blatant if included. 

I find it difficult to reconcile his comment concerning the Muslim and Christian faiths, 
Jason himself had read the Qur'an. He'd been surprised, quite pleasantly, to see how peaceful and poetic the scripture was and to realise the high regard it accorded Christians and Jews. The Qur'an referred to the latter two as "the people of the Book," referring favourably to the Bible.
I find this disturbing. I am not sure how the author can make this statement. Would love to see how this is shown in reality. The reality I and millions of others see shows something very different and more disturbing than this statement. I believe that it is not difficult to discover what the Qur'an is about, the religion it represents, how it is practised and the deception and evil that is at its core. Hardly peaceful and poetic or showing high regard to Christians and Jews. 

Further into the plot, I became ever more disappointed and frustrated. 

Zemsky has Jason, the main character, time travel to Israel during the week of Jesus' crucifixion. He wants to prove that Jesus' resurrection did occur and to bring back evidence. So why then does he portray Jason trying to prevent the arrest and subsequent trial of Jesus, trying to prove to the authorities, namely Pilate, that Jesus is innocent and a travesty of justice was being carried out and therefore Jesus should not be crucified? If Jason prevents Jesus' execution, then he effectively destroys this evidence and invalidates the reason he time travelled. If Jesus's death is prevented, then mankind is not saved from the effects of sin and death. Surely this latter fact is part of the basic understanding of those who have a relationship with Jesus and forms some of the essential underpinnings of their faith? Why mess with it?

To me, it would have been more effective having Jason solid in his faith with this underpinning, not interfering in Jesus' arrest and trial and therefore being able to gather evidence of the resurrection's veracity. But more significantly, it would show that faith is more important than emotive reactions (in this case to what Jesus went through) that can derail one's faith. Either I have missed something or the author's intention has not been clear in its delivery with this plot line.

The other aspect that I found frustrating was that due to an accident out of Jason's control, he ends up as taking Judas' role and betraying Jesus while the biblical Judas still hangs himself but for a different reason than what the Bible states! 

Zemsky also has a subplot of The Shroud of Turin but I am not so concerned about this theme as I don't consider it amounts to much as in reality, the jury is still out as to whether the Shroud is what it is purported to be, the burial cloth of Jesus. 

The other aspect where this poetic licence from Zemsky is out of control is having Jason write one of the gospels (the Book of Jason) and the Gospel of Luke did not happen! (Matthew, Mark, Jason and John, as stated in this novel). By this stage, I had had enough of this rewriting of some of the main constructs of the Bible and its main tenets. If my copy of this novel was in the printed format, I would have thrown the book against the wall.

I loath to add this next bit. The author stated to me in an email, that he "wanted to be pure as to God's Word" and to "honour God". Well, to me, this falls short of that. His attempt to "present scripture in an entertaining way, to get non-churchgoers to think about Jesus and his message", (again his words an email), misses this as well. Entertaining to a point but this ends when his poetic licence becomes over the top. I appreciate that this was his motive but it is not convincing. If Zemsky wanted non-churchgoers to think about Jesus and His message, then where is the gospel message or presentation?

Despite the above, I did enjoy the portrayal of Jesus, including that He would have a sense of humour and how he interacted with Jason and Rebecca. That portrayal honoured God. From talking to authors, I fully understand that portraying Jesus in a novel can be one of the most daunting aspects of characterisation and most feel they never do Him justice. I can understand why; they are trying to depict God who they have only experienced from the Bible and their own personal experience of Him and/or of other experiences/revelations. However, these are only the tip of the iceberg of who He is. 

This author shows a lot of promise in his writing. The technique of writing and creating a novel he has more than the basics for a new author. I just pray he can tweak the spiritual/biblical poetic licence into something that does honour God, His Word, encourage the reader's faith and lead them to consider who God really is and what He achieved for them on the Cross.

If you like a Catholic flavour to your novel, you will like this. Not for me, though!

Mildly Recommended 2/5. 


  1. Some of this goes beyond "historical license" and steps into blasphemy.


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