The Traveler (novel)
infobox Book |
name = The Traveler
image_caption = Cover of the Doubleday paperback edition
John Twelve Hawks
language = English
The Fourth Realm
Science fiction novel
publisher = Doubleday
media_type = Print (Hardback &
pages = 449 pp
isbn = ISBN 059305430X
followed_by = The Dark River
"The Traveler" (The Traveller in the UK) is a
2005 novelby John Twelve Hawks, which impressed some critics and became an international bestseller, in part due to the reclusive behavior of its author. "The Dark River", book two of The Fourth Realm Trilogy, was published in July 2007.
The World of the Travelers
The book is about an alternative contemporary reality, laced with magic and
fantasy, one in which the U.S.is part of a society overseen by a secret organization which wants a perfectly controlled population. This control is manifest through the use of surveillance cameras, centralized databases, the urge to use RFID-like tags for each citizen, and assorted spy gear (heat sensors, infrared cameras, X-rays, etc. ..).
The opposition to this organization comes in two forms: small pockets of people who have decided to live "off the grid" in various ways and the Harlequins.
The Harlequins, now numbering only a handful of people, are a group of fighters sworn to defend the Travellers. A Traveller is a person who is able to break the "light" free from his body and travel through the barriers to the other realms.
Although the basic plot is not new, the author provides a setting for discussion of larger issues, such as
free will, the rapid increase in public surveillance and information gathering, a so-called culture of fear, the nature of good and evil, etc.
The underlying premise for the world in which this book is set greatly resembles the cosmology of Tibetan
Buddhism(and other eastern cosmologies). Most notably, the second realm is explicitly labeled the realm of the Hungry Ghosts. But, each realm in the enumerated hierarchy is associated with a given human shortcoming, much like in Hinduism and Buddhism. One gets the impression that the Travelers are intended to bring the boon of their multi-realm knowledge back to the inhabitants of the fourth realm to aid them in break from their own samsaric cycles.
The author has written a post-script at the end of the book in which he talks about his reasons for writing the novel and discusses, among other things, the development in western countries regarding surveillance (such as CCTV), data-mining,
RFIDand GPS, the Information Awareness Office, etc.
It is the first volume in a projected trilogy titled "The Fourth Realm".
The second volume in the projected trilogy is titled "The Dark River". It is the continued story of the first book and has the same style of writing.
The only information one can get on John Twelve Hawks is that he is living "off the grid". This means that he is invisible to the network of surveillance and authority. He has no fixed home, no bank account or internet connection, and John Twelve Hawks is probably not his real name.
In the shadows of modern society an epic battle is fought. One woman is standing between those who try to control mankind and those who will risk their lives for the freedom of us all.On one side the Brethren, using high-end surveillance technology for control, supported by officials and politicians. On the other side the Travelers, the gifted ones, who are able to leave our realm and cross over into other realities. Because of their knowledge they are a great threat to the Brethren. The Travelers are supported by the Harlequins, a group only trained to defend the Travelers and to save them from the Brethren. Harlequins are trained since birth by their parents and other Harlequins. They are able to use all kinds of weapons, but their favored arm is a unique Harlequin sword they carry with them all the time.
Maya, a pretty young woman, is trying to live the life of a normal citizen. Her background, on the other hand, is anything but normal. She is the daughter of a famous German Harlequin named Thorn, who had been badly injured in an ambush by the Brethren. On a mission she killed two men of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. As a consequence Maya had tried to hide and leave her Harlequin past behind until one day her handicapped father calls for her. When visiting him in Prague, she finds him slaughtered by his enemies.
Fulfilling her father's last wish, Maya takes a flight to the States supporting Shepherd, the last American Harlequin. She is determined to help him defend the last two Travelers alive. However, Shepherd has become a member of the Brethren. Working for the other side now, he tries to kill Maya. With the help of a young woman named Vikki she is lucky to get away. Vikki is a member of the I. T. Jones Church, a church of followers of the Traveler Isaac T. Jones, who was killed by the Brethren in 1889. Together they are able to find an ally, Hollis, a Capoeira trainer from Los Angeles and a former member of the Isaac T. Jones Community.The three of them are able to find the last living Travelers, Michael and Gabriel Corrigan. Before they are able to give them protection, Michael is captured by the Brethren. Instead of killing him immediately they try to convince him to help them. The Brethren recently started a new Program. They were in contact with a technologically advanced civilization dwelling in another realm. Aiming to travel through the realities, they need the help of a guide, someone who is able to travel without technology - like a Traveler.
For achieving help, they offer the Brethren high technology, weapons and plans for a quantum computer. The Brethren want to use a real Traveler that can find this other civilization and guide it to the Earth. By offering Michael power, money and everything else he wants, the Brethren convince him to work for them. With a new drug called 3B3, Michael is able to leave his realm without any usual way a Pathfinder would offer. A Pathfinder is a person that helps a Traveler to cross over. He or she is a teacher, but never a Traveler himself.
While Michael gains his first experiences with other realms, Maya tries to find a Pathfinder for Gabriel. She herself knows little of other realms and the process of crossing over. At all time they must be careful and live "off the grid”, because the Brethren use all their power to get hold of them.
Hollis stays in Los Angeles to place a false track. Within little time the Brethren show up at his house and try to kill him with a new weapon called “Splicer”, some kind of genetically engineered animal designed to search and destroy.
In the meantime Maya and Gabriel find a Pathfinder in the desert in Arizona: an old woman researching king snakes in an abandoned missile silo. While teaching Gabriel how to cross over, she tells him everything she knows about the Travelers and the six realms. There is the first realm of a town like hell, the second realm of a city full of "hungry ghosts", the third is inhabited by animals ignorant of all others, the fourth realm is our own reality, where the sin is desire, the fifth realm is the reality of the "half gods", where the sin is jealousy, and the sixth realm of the "gods" themselves, where the sin is pride. The "gods" and "half-gods" of the fifth and sixth realm are not meant like God as the creator of all life, but like the Tibetans describe them: human beings from parallel worlds.
The realms are separated each by four barriers: one barrier of fire, one of water, one of earth and one of air. A Traveler that is capable of passing these four barriers is then able to enter one of the five other realms. If his body on earth dies, his soul, called the light, is condemned to stay forever in the realm it visits at that time.Crossing over into other realities, a Traveler can only carry special objects, called talismans, with him. Such an object is the sword Gabriel’s father gave him. Equipped with this sword, he meets his brother in the realm of the hungry ghosts.
His brother tries to convince him to join the Brethren. Gabriel resists the temptation, but he tells his brother where he left his body. As a consequence Gabriel is imprisoned by the Brethren within hours and brought to the research centre where Michael is kept.
Maya realizes that an immediate counterstrike is necessary. After an exciting battle in the Brethren's research facility, they free Gabriel but have to realize that they can not convince Michael to leave the Brethren.Maya and her allies are able to flee the States and hide in Mexico - but only to recover. At this point the first book of the fourth realm has a cliffhanger ending.
Literary significance and reception
David Pitt in his review for
Booklisthad many positive things to say about "The Traveler". He said that John Twelve Hawks is "a gifted storyteller, makes this surreal and vaguely supernatural good-versus-evil story entirely believable." About the novel he says that the "pace is fast, the characters intriguing and memorable, the evil dark and palatable, and the genre-bending between fantasy and thriller seamless". [cite journal|date=2005-05-01|title=The Traveler (Book)|journal=Booklist|volume=Vol. 101|issue=Issue 17|pages=p1540|issn=0006-7385]
Diane Andrews Henningfeld in a review for
Magill Book Reviewshad a slightly different view of "The Traveler". She said that the author was trying to tap into the popularity of The Da Vinci Codeand that "while the characters are generally flat and the prose pitched to perhaps a seventh-grade reading level, many readers will find the intricate plot riveting." [cite journal|last=Henningfeld|first=Diane Andrews|date=2006-02-01|title=The Traveler|journal=Magill Book Reviews|issn=0890-7722]
References or Allusions
References to actual history, geography and current science
Software Development magazine reviewed the current
RFIDtechnology in 2005 and said that the ability to track a human using a helicopter where an RFID chip is implanted in the hand as depicted in "The Traveler" was not technically feasible. [cite journal|last=Keuffel|first=Warren|date=November 2005|title=Interface: On the RFID Road|journal=Software Development; Nov2005, , |volume=Vol. 13|issue=Issue 11|pages=p64|url=http://www.ddj.com/mobile/184415432|accessdate=2008-05-17]
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
It has been reported that Universal Studios will be making "The Traveler" into a movie. [cite news|url=http://www.maconareaonline.com/news.asp?id=11499|title=A tale of two recluses: McCarthy and Twelve Hawks|last=Parsons|first=Claudia|date=2005-07-19|accessdate=2008-05-18]
* [http://www.traveler-book.com The Traveler official book site]
* [http://www.bookreporter.com/reviews2/038551428X.asp The Traveler, by John Twelve Hawks] Positive review
* [http://contemporarylit.about.com/od/sciencefictionreviews/fr/traveler.htm The Traveler, by John Twelve Hawks] Critical review
* [http://www.sffworld.com/mul/146p0.html Interview with John Twelve Hawks about The Traveler]
* [http://www.resurrectionautoparts.com Resurrection Auto Parts] Semi-fictional and semi-official forum, established by John Twelve Hawks
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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