“The Traveler” by John Twelve Hawks (Doubleday, 2005)

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This book actually generated quite a bit of buzz before it was released last June and I had it recommended to me by a few people saying that it was in the vein of Stephen King, and since I’m a fan I would probably enjoy this. I managed to get an ARC through the bookstore I used to work at and then it sat on my shelf for about six months until I picked it up and decided to start reading it last week. I finished it about four days later after pretty much eating it up. I would describe it as akin to a Michael Crichton techno-thriller with some plenty of sci-fi mixed in. After getting about a hundred pages into it I was even wondering if Crichton much just be working on this same book currently because of its similarities with his story lines, the main difference being that this was a little slower and the characters had more depth to them. After finishing this book I realized that this has certain elements that Crichton would never put in his books, making this an enjoyable original piece of fiction. If the Matrix trilogy had originally been made into a book trilogy and done by a good writer, it would’ve been something like The Traveler.

The book is set near to the present day or perhaps twenty or thirty years into the future. The world is pretty much like it is now, except for being a little more high-tech and with better gadgets. There is a group of people known as Travelers who have the unique ability of being able to leave their bodies and travel to other worlds or realms. They have existed for many thousands of years, Jesus and Mohammed are thought to have been Travelers. There is a group of people known as the Tabula whose job it is to eradicate these Travelers by whatever means necessary. They have also been in existence for a long time. Then there is a group called the Harlequins whose job it is to protect the Travelers in every way possible; again they have been around for a very long time.

In the present it is thought that no Travelers are in existence anymore, having been wiped out by the Tabula, while the Harlequins have been reduced to very small numbers. Our main character is the daughter of a Harlequin whose father is soon killed in the book and while she had renounced her duty as a Harlequin, due to the small number of these people still alive, she has been summoned to become a Harlequin once more, because two offspring of a Traveler have been found alive in California. The Traveler’s gift is usually passed down through genes, though this is not certain. It is her job to find those two brothers and keep them safe. The Tabula also know of the existence of these two brothers, but their modus operandi has changed dramatically. They no longer wish to kill the Travelers, but to harness their powers. The reason being that using past Travelers they have been in contact with another race living in one of the other realms that the Travelers go to, and this race is vastly superior and more intelligent and has been sending them new inventions and technology such as creating quantum computers that can measure how Travelers pass into these other realms, as well as being able to send additional matter into these realms. So they want to use the Travelers as guinea pigs to work with this new race.

This the setting of the book with a lot more details than I have given and features great chase scenes and amazing fights. The Harlequins are taught from when they are children how to fight with different weapons. At the same time the Tabula basically have the Internet, all technology, the government, police, etc. under their control. So their world has its similarities to that of The Matrix, as well as to Stephenson’s Snow Crash and Gibson’s Neuromancer; and I also saw a lot of Blade Runner in the book too. With the world in its current state, it’s not surprising that a book like this has been written. The good thing is that apart from being a really great read, it is the first book in a trilogy and hopefully unlike the Matrix trilogy, it will not doom itself to an ugly death before one is half way through the second book.

Interestingly, the author John Twelve Hawks is very much a recluse who apparently has never met with his agent, has been working on the book for a long time, and has never owned nor has he ever watched any TV. So there are some thought-provoking possibilities to keep in mind, along with some strange websites that have been created for the book, though it almost seems as if some of them were created before the book came out, which is just plain weird.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on December 11th, 2005 ©Alex C. Telander.