Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Traveler

John Twelve Hawks
Paperback released c. 07/06 (HC c. 07/05)
First book of a proposed "Fourth Realm Trilogy"

(for this and future posts, I would like to just let you know, in case we haven't met, that I can't spell. i know I can't spell, and have stopped worrying about it, mostly. it's probably going to drive you nuts, and I apologize in advance)

Present tense. Big brother is watching you...again...sorta. The Tabula, or Bretheren, are tapped into every known electronic resource on the planet and can track your every move, if they cared so to do. Obviously, some people who have bothered to realize this are quick opposed, and choose to live "Off the Grid" as much as possible. Leading among these people are the nearly extinct Travelers, who can project their neural energy into the 5 other realms of existance, as mentioned in Buddhism (apperently). They come back with the wisdom and leadership to make the people rise up against the establishment (the Tabula, basically, although the average soul doesn't understand it that way). Therefore, the Tabula have been hunting down and killing travelers and have nearly succeeded in wiping them out, which is made easier by the fact that the gift usually runs in families. Trying to prevent the Travelers' demise are the Harlequins, who are highly trained fighters, usually from the same families, who don't have any special powers and are therefore stuck in the "Fourth Realm" all the time, with the rest of us. Recently, the Tabula have changed their mind about killing the Travelers and have found a way to use them to Tabula advantage, and that's about where the story gets going.

Now...

The book is entertaining. I read the whole thing, and felt somewhat drawn to do so. However, I think the author is trying to mix a few too many themes into his creation. Among them:

- The Tabula as Big Brother (probably the most obvious)
- new survalence technology, like embedded chips that unlock doors for you (somewhat related)
- Alien life (in other realms in this case, instead of planets)
- The Da Vinci Code (someplace in the book there's a little section about Jesus being a traveler and maybe the Knights Templar being Harlequins, but I found it so annoying and discontinuous that I don't really remember the details...it's been done, and done and done already.)
- genetic mutation, forming "splicers," or crazy, overgrown, homicidal hyenas (we learned it from the aliens)

I think that this book might have been pretty sweet if the author had managed to weave all of these ends in more seemlessly, and made it a little scarier. I haven't read 1984 recently, but it seems to me that the fact that Big Brother was so ominous gave that book it's staying power. In the Traveler, the Tabula are controlling the masses and world events without the knowledge of the general population, all while watching their electronic lives....all of which could totally be going on right now and somehow just doesn't pack much of a punch. Each little theme listed above, plus more I'm probably forgetting, kinda stuck out in an obvious manner, instead of being a part of a seamless, believeable reality. Nonetheless, I'm a little impressed that the author managed to incorporate all of those things at all, so I'm not saying it wasn't rather creative, just not very well presented.

The author was really trying to make this into a novel with fantasy/sci fi themes, instead of a sci fi novel. This makes sense if you want to broaden your audience, and it got me to read it, so I guess it's working. However, he doesn't really have the polished writing to get away with it, nor does the book have the staying power or any real lasting effect that you would want to feel from a good novel. You can get away with this stuff from a mass market sci fi book. On the other hand, maybe the author was just going for a quick entertainment fix, but given the publicity and reviews the book received, I don't think that's the case.

All in all, a pretty good, creative read just for the light entertainment factor of it, or if the genre is a favorite of yours. Two things that did strike me while I was reading it:

- all that electronic survalence is probably pretty realistic
- NPR did a story on those implanted ID chips while I was reading the book, which caused a mental double take, but I quickly got over it.

Oddly enough, the author does give a pretty good description of a small religious group, the "Jonesies, " who believe that a certain martyrd Traveler named Jones was indeed the last, and follow him as their prophet the way Christians follow Jesus Christ, although without the divinity part. Some Jonesies will help Harlequins and some won't, and on and on with politics and hurt feelings and so forth.

posted by ~e at 12:36 PM

2 Comments:

Blogger Kat said...

I read this one and really liked it. The interesting thing is that the author himself prefers to remain "off the grid." John Twelve Hawks is not even his (her?) real name. Check out the USA Today article on it here.

So that begs the question: does he believe a lot of the stuff he put in his book?

Or is it just a marketing ploy? I certainly read the book because of all the hype.

8/15/2006 8:31 AM  
Blogger reyn said...

That's pretty funny, because I want to read it, but the only "hype" I've seen is on this site (and when E first told me about it). Of course, I don't live in the book world like you two do.

8/15/2006 8:36 AM  

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