It is safer to live off the grid, unconnected to the vast technology, because unseen people are watching our every move, employing technology we have barely imagined. Worse, they are controlling our every move. Those we think are running the country, rather the world, are mere beards for the true puppet masters. This is the world John Twelve Hawks has envisioned in his debut novel, The Traveler. Like the best science fiction, the story begs the reader to question the reality in which we live.
In John Twelve Hawks’ world, the Tabula control the world from behind the scenes, ensuring a world governed by strict order. Their chief enemies are Travelers, people born with the ability to ascend our world, to other realms and achieve enlightenment and gain wisdom. In their ability to achieve wisdom and enlightenment, the Travelers bring chaos to the strict order the Tabula seek. Throughout the years, Travelers have been protected by the Harlequins, sword-wielding bodyguards of the highest order. The story opens with Maya and her father Thorn, both Harlequins, discussing Maya’s “retirement” from the Harlequin life-style. Maya no longer wished to be part of the eternal struggle between the Tabula and Harlequins, unfortunately for her, she is pulled back into the life to search for what her informants feel is the last Traveler. In this case, the last Traveler could be Gabriel Corrigan, or his brother Michael. Their father was a Traveler, and their memories of him and of growing up are ones of continual movement and relocation. Maya is not the only one searching for the last Traveler, agents of the Tabula are in pursuit as well. They want to either kill or control the last Traveler.
So briefly, this book mixes the paranoia of the powers that be in secret societies; ancient enemies who have been battling for centuries; out of body experiences; martial arts and sword fighting; and the veiled idea of an ultimate savior. Hawks peppers more throughout the novel, but discovering each is part of the fun of reading the book. He builds up the characters quite well, Maya is very believable in her reluctance to come back into the fold of the Harlequins and the Corrigan brothers play off of each other’s personalities quite well. The members of the Tabula come across very convincing, too, and perhaps this is one of the more scary elements of the story.
The novel I found the most parallels with while reading The Traveler was George Orwell’s masterpiece, 1984. The sense of paranoia, of powers in control we can’t see is a running theme in both novels. Orwell’s novel, in many ways, was a reaction to the Cold War paranoia of the age, and whether Hawks intended The Traveler to be a reaction to the Post 9/11 World, it is difficult not to read it as such. The government’s secretive manner, the stronger presence and increased threat of censorship, and the increasingly masked loss of personal freedom, in the real world, are very much paralleled in Hawks’ frighteningly realistic world.
It is difficult to judge this book fairly without mentioning the aggressive marketing push, particularly the Web sites (http://www.traveler-book.com) devoted to this book. One character from the novel has her own Weblog (http://judithstrand.blogspot.com/), while numerous Web sites for companies in the book (http://www.evergreen-foundation.com) are active and presented as if they are real companies. All of this gives the book and world of The Traveler an air of authenticity, not unlike the online marketing and pre-release buzz associated with The Blair Witch Project. Fortunately, there are no shaky cameras here, though Hawks does blur the line between fiction and reality as well, if not better in his novel. This novel and the feel of the world also evoke an aura not unlike the Matrix films, with people avoiding technology and staying off and away from “the Grid.” In both cases, being disconnected provides the safest havens from those in control.
I think the testament of how I enjoyed this novel was the fact that I was reading well beyond when I would normally go to sleep. Hawks spins a riveting tale made all the more frightening by how similar his world is to the one in which we live. It was a well-written novel, so much so that I wonder if this is his first novel or John Twelve Hawks has published under another name.
This book should make waves upon publication, with it’s eerily resonant parallels to where our society could be headed, and with the loss of identity and personal freedoms posited by a world in which we only think we are individuals. John Twelve Hawks’ impressive novel will really make you pick your head up and wonder how fictitious the world of The Traveler actually is.
© 2005 Rob H. Bedford