(Reviewed by Carisa Richner JUL 15, 2005)
The Traveler fits our “beyond reality” category well. The book posits a series of other “realms” just beyond our own which only a few people have been able to enter. These people are called “Travelers.” Hunting the Travelers are the Tabula, whose plans to control the world are thwarted by the Travelers influence. Protecting the Travelers from the Tabula are the Harlequins. They are trained killers sworn to do anything to protect the Travelers.
The story takes place in the present time. The Tabula have succeeded in killing off most of the Travelers except for a handful, including two brothers, Michael and Gabriel, whose father was a Traveler but who disappeared when they were boys. Michael and Gabriel do not know about Travelers or the Tabula, but the Tabula are after them anyway. As the Travelers have been killed off, so have the Harlequins. As the ability to travel into other realms is genetically passed down, the job of protecting Travelers is also passed down. However, where Travelers have no choice, they either have the ability or they don’t, Harlequins do have a choice. As the novel opens, Maya, who was trained by her father to be a Harlequin, has chosen a normal life. After the Tabula uses her to track down and kill her father, Maya joins up again, introducing the interesting theme of free will versus determinism.
As Maya races to find Michael and Gabriel before the Tabula do, her job is complicated by the extent in which the Tabula already control society. Their computer networks access vast amounts of data on citizens, helped by cameras that record everything in public spaces. Maya must outwit iris scans, tracer beads, and genetically modified killing hyenas, as well as old-fashioned obstacles like violent mercenaries. This novel has quite a few violent scenes, but Hawks never seems to revel in it and much is left to the reader’s imagination.
I was pleasantly surprised when this novel turned out to be more than just a plot centered conspiracy novel. Hawks uses Maya, Gabriel and Michael to raise many interesting questions about the relationship between technology and privacy, and how our fear of terrorism or even ordinary street crime may cause us to lose control over our fundamental rights. He also delves into the influence of the absent father and his spiritual legacy, as well as questions on the nature of reality. His characters are well drawn; Maya is especially interesting. As the novel progresses we see her struggling to integrate her Harlequin stoicism and cold efficiency with her developing feelings for Gabriel.
Perhaps my only complaint was that the ending was unsatisfying and a little unbelievable. I suspect that Hawks will follow this novel with a second or third in a series, but as a reader who wants all the ends tied up it was frustrating to read of the battle won, but not the war.
- Amazon readers rating: from 277 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Traveler at Random House
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
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- Official website for John Twelve Hawks
- Web of integrated sites, explore to reveal hidden information:
- New York Times review of The Traveler
- BookReporter.com review of The Traveler
- USA Today on the author and The Traveler
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About the Author:
John Twelve Hawks lives off the grid (no credit cards, no driver's license, no mortgage or anything to enable anyone, particularly the government or a corporation, to track his comings and goings or to invade his privacy).