The Traveller (The Fourth Realm Trilogy) Paperback – 1 Mar 2006
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Sometimes--not very often--a debut novel comes along which marks out a new writer as a consummate craftsman, seemingly fully formed with that first book. The Traveller is such a book; the mysterious John Twelve Hawks is such a writer (his publishers give no information about him, except that he lives off the grid).
The first thing that strikes the reader about this unusual novel is its ambitious panoply, which is as exuberantly international as one could wish, moving through a vividly realised Prague, London and Los Angeles. His characters are disparate but characterised with great individuality, such as the brothers Gabriel and Michael Corrigan, who have been brought up in Los Angeles under the mesmerising spell of their fey father; he appears to possess certain unnatural powers. After he dies a violent death, the brothers vanish off the grid of society, living in a clandestine underworld. Meanwhile, in London, Maya is a self-possessed young woman whose everyday life conceals a strange secret: she is the last of a dynasty whose responsibility is to protect those in the human race who are differently gifted. She is called to Prague by her sick father, and learns about Gabriel and Michael, whose lives are now in serious danger. In California, a desperate race against time begins: who will track down the brothers first--the protective Maya or the murderous Boone?
Readers tired of the parochial thriller that has held sway in Britain for so long will embrace this intoxicating (if outrageously unlikely) novel with open arms. True, a certain suspension of disbelief is required, but Twelve Hawks is the kind of writer who is able to persuade even the most sceptical among us. A remarkable debut.
--Barry Forshaw --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
"'The pace is fast, the characters intriguing and memorable, the evil dark and palpable, and the genre-bending between fantasty and thriller seamless...He could be a force to reckon with'" (Kirkus Reviews)
"'Twelve Hawks' much anticipated novel is powerful, mainstream fiction built on a foundation of cutting-edge technology laced with fantasy and the chilling specter of an all-too-possible social and political reality'" (Publishers Weekly)
"The book they say is the new Da Vinci Code. Take some Orwellian undertones, add a dash of Philip Pullman and sprinkle with a few lines of Dan Brown" (Metro)
"Compelling...Picture The Matrix crossed with William Gibson and you'll have a sense of The Traveller" (Newsday)
"A cyber 1984...Page-turningly swift, with a cliffhanger ending" (New York Times)
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Top customer reviews
I thought the Harlequins/Travellers/Tabula subculture around which the plot revolves was an interesting setup - and one with potentially more legs than The Matrix, which floundered badly after the initial set-up of the first film. I'm intrigued to know where the story is going to go in the promised 2nd and 3rd parts of the trilogy, so in that sense the story is a success.
However this was painful to read at times. The prose is very clunky in places, and I agree with some other reviewers who have criticised the rather inept manner in which action was transposed in a very unexciting way (unless that was an attempt to indicate the unemotional attitude of the Harlequins...).
One stylistic device that did interest me was the use of multiple perspectives. The authorial voice shifted between chapters, so that for example in one chapter the reader shares Maya's thoughts as she struggles with the idea of being a Harlequin, and in the next she is seen from Gabriel or Vicky's point of view, referred to only as 'The Harlequin' and appearing cold and detached. This is something that could have added a great deal to the characterisation, but unfortunately seemed to fade out as the plot kicked in so didn't really add anything by the end of the book.
If you can get past the stylistic problems the story is genuinely thought-provoking, albeit somewhat derivative. But it remains to be seen if these ideas can be developed through the rest of the trilogy into something a little less generic and with a little more depth.
Like a Dan Brown book, you can take this for what it is and enjoy a kind of guilty pleasure in what is the literary equivalent of a popcorn movie. However, you may ultimately be left with a need to feed your literary sensibilities and pick up something else to read that is worthier, but a possibly a little duller too.
This is a parable for our times that raises questions about our freedom and privacy as individuals. What makes it stand out from the pack (and unlike The Matrix) this is based on fact (did you not read 'How We Live Now' at the back?)
If you don't buy the premise that we are moving towards a virtual Panopticon look no further than the proposal to introduce ID cards in the UK and the fact that the next census is likely to include questions relating to sexual orientation and income. All of which you will be legally obliged to answer. Hopefully reading this book will make you question the rationale behind this.
However, it is the creation of this interesting real world that inversely causes the biggest problems with the book. As it reaches its conclusion the book moves more from our world to the idea of other realities. When Hawks explores these I felt the book took a nose dive. These sections were boring and lacked any of the edge that he had managed to build up. With a set of interesting characters and some great action set pieces the fall in quality is obvious. Add to this some overly long explanation sequences in which characters tell one another their entire life story in a chapter and you have some basic writing flaws. I felt that Hawks wrote the book too much as part 1 so never even attempted to shift the pace or explain anything. With the final third being the worst I assume that the next book will pick up on the threads left. This would probably make book 2 worse than the first.
A great book that should be read by any TRUE fan of sci fi and fantasy.
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