“The Traveler” by John Twelve Hawks

The Traveler (Fourth Realm, #1)My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When the most intriguing question about a book is the real identity of the author, you know something isn’t working.

John Twelve Hawks lives “off the grid” and his novel, “The Traveler” is a warning to the rest of us do consider doing the same. We may not know it, but our world is just one of many realms, though only a special few people can break the barriers from one realm to another. These people are called Travelers and they’ve apparently been at war with a group called the Tabula for years. The Travelers are protected by the Harlequins, who consider it a duty and honor to protect them and possibly lay down their lives for them.

Apparently, the Tabula are winning the war, using the horrors of modern technology to track down and destroy all the Travelers and Harlequins. Except for two brothers, both of whom are Travelers. The book becomes a race against time for several players on both sides to try and get to the two brothers. One of them, Michael, is kidnapped and brainwashed by the Tabula. The other, Gabriel is saved and goes to an Indian reservation to begin his Traveler training.

If it sounds like a lot of popular movies you’ve seen in the last twenty years or so, it’s probably because “The Traveler” has borrowed a lot from the best of them. The story wants to have the same sense of pervasive paranoia that is a highlight of the stories and novels of Philip K. Dick, but it comes up woefully short. Passages about how Maya, one of the last Harlequins, must change her physical features to avoid the vast machine seem to be ripped right out of the page of any good spy thriller of the past twenty years or the Bourne movies.

The story is full of mystic mumbo-jumbo, little of it delved into at any great depth or even explained. Basically, we’re supposed to fear the machines and the only way to live is without the intrusion of machines into our every day life. Well, except for the occasional quick jaunt around the Internet to find information…but only as long as you don’t leave a footprint, of course.

The novel plunges forward from one absurd moment to the next without any logic or reason, before coming to a close with a cliffhanger. It’s one that you’ll see coming, if only because looking at the number of pages left will clue you in that Twelve Hawks won’t have time to wrap it all up in the time he has left.

If the story were a bit more compelling, a bit less cliched and the characters anything more than archetypes, I might be a bit more inclined to wonder more about the identity of John Twelve Hawks. Given how pedestrian and cliched the novel is, I find myself wondering if the author is more or less hiding behind the identity of Twelve Hawks not so that he or she won’t be discovered by the vast machine, but so his or her name won’t be associated with this lackluster novel.

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