Latest novel by Queen’s Alum falls short of expectations

Queen’s MBA Alum tackles business and doppelgängers in new book 

Timothy Smith's author photo.

Mysterious plane crashes, doppelgängers, and shady business transactions are a perfect recipe for a science-fiction classic, but Timothy Taylor’s latest novel misses the mark. 

The Rule of Stephens is the latest from Taylor, MBA' 87. The novel tells the tale of Catherine Bach, a plane crash survivor struggling to navigate the world of cutting-edge health technology while her doppelgänger threatens to replace her and take over her company.  

That seems captivating. It implies the plane crash and doppelgängers will be a focal point of the book, which isn’t the case. 

A more accurate summary would say that Taylor’s novel is about a woman who tries relentlessly to perfect her invention—the Red Pill 2.0—which promises to give users an alternative method of evaluating their health, making doctor visits unnecessary. 

The subtle nod to The Matrix in the name Red Pill 2.0 is as close to science fiction as Taylor gets, beyond references to Stephen King in the novel’s title. 

The book’s “Rule of Stephens” states everything in the world can be explained using either the work of Stephen Hawking or Stephen King. It is only mentioned a handful of times. Considering this is the title of the novel, Taylor only used this rule as a subtle reminder to readers that there’s the possibility the story's events can be either real or false. 

For such a compelling concept, it was only referenced a few times and leaves something to be desired from the lengthy business jargon that dominates most of the novel. 

The first 100 pages are all about Bach’s start-up company, before Taylor finally introduces the folk-lore inspired possibility of doppelgängers. The story reverts back to the character’s business soon after.

In this respect, the author’s background is on display throughout the story. Taylor graduated from the Smith School of Business with an MBA, and he clearly knows the ins and outs of the financial landscape of British Columbia, which both helps and hinders the story. 

The extensive focus on Bach’s start-up company gives the reader a full view of the character’s strengths and weaknesses, revealing how she handles stress, unforeseen challenges, and intense competition. 

She struggles with repairing the kinks in her product while her business partner pressures her and threatens to sell the company. Through it all, she remains determined and trudges forward.   

Although the focus on Bach’s new business shows readers she is a strong and independent protagonist, it also delays the far more engaging reveal of her possibly being replaced by a doppelgänger. 

The suspense created by the threat of danger is what made the novel compelling, but the story repeatedly returned to the difficulties of establishing a business. This resulted in pages of underwhelming content stuffed between a few exciting paragraphs. 

Taylor’s decision to name his novel The Rule of Stephens offers an escape route from his own attempt at science fiction writing. If, according to the rule, everything can be explained using the work of either Hawking or King, then Taylor’s novel can be left undefinable. Either his protagonist is hallucinating a doppelgänger, or she really has one. 

In either scenario, the plot of the novel is not reliant on the doppelgänger being real or fake to move forward. The protagonist’s business endeavors are the main focus, which is a disappointing discovery after high expectations of a sci-fi thriller.

If you’re looking for a fun science-fiction read, look elsewhere. But if you’re interested in the complexities of health care technology in British Columbia, The Rule of Stephens is for you.  

 

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