“It was exhausting to be Thorn’s daughter, always avoiding the surveillance of the Vast Machine, always watching for enemies, always aware of the angle of attack.”
“The Traveler” by John Twelve Hawks
When I started The Traveler, the first book in a realm-jumping, anti-technology trilogy, I was pretty revved up and excited. Here I had, in my hands, a book that all the critics were claiming to be a fast-pace, mind-altering journey into a cyber-1984, and Matrix-esque ride into the current digital landscape of consumerism and information sharing. And it really showed promise at first, presenting us with a fascinating war that had been going on for centuries between the Harlequin protectors and the people who construct the Vast Machine to control and protect people, the Brethren. A great deal is focused on the idea of the Traveler, an individual who can escape the current realm, the Fourth Realm, and travel to other ones. This allows them to escape from the Vast Machine, leaving them to be a wrench in the gearwork, and, up until now, the Brethren had sought to kill all the Travelers; the Harlequins protected them. But now the tables have turned and the Brethren now believe they can use the Travelers for their new Quantum Computer, which would allow them all the access and digital control they could imagine. Now the only problem is finding one that they haven’t killed yet. And there just so happens to be two.
At a certain point for me, I felt the tone of the book shifted. Twelve Hawks, which I hear is a pseudonym since the author himself apparently lives completely off the grid, does a wonderful job of setting up this world and the mechanics of it and the concept behind the Harlequins and Brethren and Travelers. It’s when the characters start interacting and the actual story of the two Corrigan brothers, who are perspective Travelers, and the different faction’s attempts to get them on their side, that things get incredibly disappointing. The concepts are great, but they are simply not supported in the story that follows. Twelve Hawks’ strength is in setting up the world, but I found the characters, despite what the reviews may suggest, to be weak, not in concept, but in what ended up happening on the page. The relationships feel incredibly underdeveloped and awkward, and the whole second half of the book felt like an entire cop-out. I expected a lot of action scenes, but Twelve Hawks skirts the issue a lot, by having the narrative tell us way too much, while showing us hardly anything. The great big climatic end scene gets half-way through before the heroine passes out, and we get a recap of how they escaped in a single narrative line, and that’s it. I felt totally cheated and extremely disappointing.
I think the disappointment is particularly potent for me because I enjoyed the beginning so much. I remember commenting to a friend that it was reading like what Jennifer Government would have been if it was good, but I think I spoke way too soon. The longer the book went, the more it started to share in common with that other book, in that it mostly just became a tale weaved out by someone just wanting to show a lot of cool stuff and talk about how technology/government/big business is bad, with a large dose of telling, and not nearly enough showing or evoking a connection with the reader.
I would be intrigued to pick up the other books in the trilogy, but I can’t see them being something I’ll actively seek out. I love the concept, and I wish the tone of the beginning of the book would have carried out through the whole novel, as that would have made the entire thing much more satisfying and effective.
Books read: 47 out of 100.
And, last but certainly not least, I’d like to give a great big thank you to Alex Laybourne for the subscription! Welcome aboard, Alex! Good to see you!