The other morning I began reading The Traveler only to finish later that night. Even now the story lingers. Not only because of the world I encountered, but because of the main character whose elusive tendrils continue to tickle my mind. The story behind the story is also interesting, but for today we’ll confine ourselves to a review of the book.
In The Traveler, John Twelve Hawks has cleverly woven a variety of fiction strands together, but the heart of this debut novel is that of a thriller. The story skips across countries and oceans, fractures time and slips into other worlds. Yes, it’s speculative fiction. The setting is in the not-so-distant-future. Twelve Hawks has captured so many of the threads of today’s electronic and Internet world, braided them with a heavy dose of fear, future peril, and security issues, and extrapolated a mere distance to loft the reader into what seems to me to be a very spooky tomorrow. It’s easy to imagine today’s culture as the breeding ground for a secret society called the Tabula. Having placed the highest value on order, particularly tightly-controlled order, the Tabula find chaos and randomness abhorrent, and their goal is to control the world through an ever-increasing grid called the Vast Machine.
Enter Maya, the heroic Harlequin and protector of Travelers. Harlequin’s live off the grid and are feared warriors. Travelers are those rare individuals who have the ability to tear apart the flimsy fabric of this world and slip into the six realms. When they return, their exposure to these new worlds reshapes their thinking into a world view that is the antithesis of anything the Tabula value and require. The Tabula’s hatred for the Travelers fuels their desire to complete the systematic killing of all Travelers. They will not tolerate those who refuse to conform and give up their identity to the Vast Machine. All must accept life on the grid. The news of the existence of two brothers, sons of a dead Traveler, who have been living off the grid most of their lives, threatens to disrupt the Tabula’s plans; but they are not the only ones whose lives are changed. Maya, the daughter of a renowned Harlequin warrior, has rejected her father’s shadowy warrior’s life and had embraced life as an ordinary citizen. Now, in answer to her father’s call, she must step off the grid only to face the centuries-old demands of her heritage that refuse to be denied. She must take up the sword, go to America, find the two brothers, and protect them at all costs. Despite her in-bred nature to remain alone and isolated, Maya must reach out to the brothers, form allies with strangers, and adjust her life to their needs.
In this fast-paced thriller, John Twelve Hawks has done a good job of pulling out Maya’s humanity and making it real to the reader. While this is clearly the story of a reluctant hero, Maya does not shirk her duty to the Travelers nor does she fail to provide a good story for the reader. Finally, the story opens the door to a trilogy called The Fourth Realm. Say what you will about blended shades of The Matrix, echoes of Star Wars, remnants of Kill Bill, The Traveler is a story that is quite capable of luring the unsuspecting reader into a journey that promises even more to come.
For more to come on the story behind the story, look for tomorrow’s entry.
This review will be posted on Blogcritics.org later today where you’ll find my other Blogcritics reviews.