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The Traveler    by John Twelve Hawks order for
by John Twelve Hawks
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

There's been a lot of media attention focused on first time author John Twelve Hawks (a pseudonym) and his futuristic thriller, The Traveler. Doubleday editor Jason Kaufman tells us 'I don't know who he is'. Kaufman apparently corresponds with the author several times a week through e-mail and phone conversations and mentions that, like some of the characters in his novel, 'John Twelve Hawks believes in living 'off the grid', away from the reaches of technology. This is not something that Twelve Hawks dreamed up because it would make headlines ... Twelve Hawks is someone who lives his life and values his privacy in the exact same way as the characters he writes about. It's not a game to him'.

Well, a huge multi-dimensional and surrealistic game is definitely afoot in this gripping, leanly written, and thought-provoking thriller. The story begins in London, in a technological society not unlike our own. A young girl named Maya and her father, Thorn, are on their seemingly innocuous way to the subway. They're separated and within moments thugs attack Maya. She dispatches them easily with the aid of a special sword she keeps strapped at her back in a tripod tube. It's only then the reader learns that the confrontation is a training exercise concocted by Thorn. And that he and Maya are Harlequins, the last of a long line of warriors dedicated to protecting a select few known as Travelers, prophets who can move between alternate dimensions and who have shaped the course of history.

Maya has no intention of devoting her life to what she believes is a lost cause. She is certain that all the Travelers have been destroyed by the Tabula, a ruthless organization that has hunted down Travelers and their Harlequin protectors, through the centuries. Maya and Thorn part ways. Until her early twenties, she lives a normal life and works at a normal job. Then she's summoned by her crippled father, who's barely managed to evade the Tabula's mercenaries. Another Harlequin has betrayed Thorn and the enemy is closing in. He tells his daughter of the existence of two brothers, Gabriel and Michael Corrigan, who may be the last remaining Travelers. The Tabula have changed their agenda; rather than destroying the Corrigans, they want to capture the brothers and use them to establish ultimate world order. Maya must now make a hard decision - to walk away from her destiny and resume her normal life within the 'Vast Machine', or race to Los Angeles to find and protect (with her life if necessary) the brothers before the Tabula's mercenaries capture them.

Media frenzy aside, The Traveler is an engaging, thought-provoking and eminently readable futuristic thriller - book one of The Fourth Realm trilogy. It's got a little bit of everything from the mystical to shades of Orwell's big brother is watching you theme. In Twelve Hawk's world, however, the technology is eerily reminiscent of our own, begging the question - just how far will governments go to keep their citizens in line? The author's prose is concise which lends well to the story's brisk pacing. Characterizations are well done, particularly Maya, a young woman unwillingly drawn into a life she never wanted. Gabriel is a quiet and thoughtful young man whose freedom means everything to him, also unwillingly drawn down a mystical and dangerous path not of his choosing. What he does understand by the end of this first installment is that he and his brother Michael may well become mortal enemies - ultimate good versus ultimate evil - and that their impending battle is only just the beginning.

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