* Prices may differ from that shown
This is a story set in the modern society we all live in but are oblivious to. In our society, we take for granted the world of technology and surveillance, but in true classic big brother style, who watches the watchers and to compound this, what is the true value of this data, is there any privacy?
The Traveller was recommended to me by a friend who found the concept of the story interestingly scary.
The three main groups in this novel are; the Travellers, people with the ability to travel to another realm, Tabula, a group of people seeking out the Travellers and Harlequins, those who defend the Travellers from the Tabula.
The story continues about how the Tabula are on the hunt for a pair of Travellers by using their might. The Tabula have access to all the information anywhere, ever in the data collected from computers, phones, CCTV and so on. The Harlequins, namely Maya, then attempts to protect the Travellers, the Corrigan brothers from the bad guys whose motives are not yet entirely clear...
The premise of this story is great; it definitely had me wanting to find out the true story lying underneath what could easily be happening in world we live in.
Now the bad. The book is poorly written with characters one can never really believe in. There are attempts by the author to string multiple scenes concurrently by giving snippets, but rather than building tension, it creates a discordant feel which makes it difficult to read for prolonged periods of time.
So it is a shame that this potentially great storyline is encapsulated by a poorly written book.
This was marketed as the next Da Vinci Code, so I had great expectations for it. However, it took me a long time to get into the book. I found the first few chapters to be badly written and the characters very dry and uninspiring.
However, the concept of a world where your every move is tracked by organisations who may not have your best interests at heart was a interesting one. It follows two brothers who discover they have special powers of travelling to other realms and those who want to protect them, or use their powers for evil *dum dum dum!*
It brought up many areas for discussion that perhaps a more skilled author could have dealt with better. Overall, it was like watching an afternoon movie, with all the one dimensional characters and settings that they bring- perfectly enjoyable but is never going to blow your mind or leave you thinking about it afterwards. I don't feel compelled to go out of my way to read the other books in the series, but if they were sitting in a hotel bookcase I would choose them for want of anything better.
The more paranoid amongst us may fear the future of technology. One such invention that may rob us all of our personal freedoms is the humble RFID, a chip that allows direct communication between itself and a computer (and therefore web). If the government introduces their ID cards they will inevitably contain RFID chips. Now Big Brother will know exactly where you are and where you have been. No big issue perhaps if you believe yourself to be a good citizen? What about the embarrassment that may be caused as you walk into a shop and the screen pops up saying, 'Welcome back Mr Smith, would you like to buy more porn?' What about if you worked for a large private company? You go on a drive one day and you return to work to find an automated email asking why you went to the town of the company's nearest rival. The idea of central powers taking over individual liberties is not new to Science Fiction, but it has become more prolific in the genre of late. 'The Traveller' is a prime example of paranoid future fiction.
Maya was brought up by her father to be a Harlequin. These are a group of warriors trained from birth to protect a select band of people called Travellers. Harlequins are equipped to do nothing but fight; it is the Travellers' ability to cross over into other dimensions that is the key. Initially, Maya rejected her father's wishes and became a citizen. However, when her father is butchered Maya is dragged back into this underground world. The evil Brethren are becoming more powerful having wiped out nearly all the Harlequins and Travellers meaning that Maya must find the last two Travellers's before the Brethren do. This is almost impossible when the Brethren have implemented nearly all the governments and big businesses in the world.
I am not adverse to a bit of science fiction that looks at the bleaker side of life. In fact, dystopian futures are probably my favourite genre as it is a great way of writing about current issues and how they impact us. 'The Traveller' is set in today's world, but imagines us as citizens unaware of an underground war. This concept has been used many times before e.g. 'Netherworld', 'The Matrix', but is a solid concept. What grounds 'Traveller' is that it uses modern technology and suggests some of the nefarious means that they could be used. In John Twelve Hawk's afterword he states his distaste for intrusive security and this is reflected throughout the book. I was able to enjoy the novel despite the slightly heavy handed anti-govt/big business propaganda that permeated throughout.
The core concept that they are watching you has worked since George Orwell and Hawk's does a good job of updating the Big Brother concept for a modern audience. 'The Traveller' peaks in the first half as we follow Maya's return to the Harlequin fold. It is here that we learn about how The Brethren have implemented their powers, their use of RFID the internet etc. Hawk's does an impressive and intelligent job of describing their role in an entertaining way.
With just an interesting paranoid vision of the future the book would have nowhere to go. Luckily then that Hawks has created some good characters and some excellent action sequences. Maya is an intriguing central protagonist and she holds the book together; although she is cold and aloof I actually related to her well. The world that she inhabits and the war between the Travellers and the Brethren is interesting. When these two groups meet it is usually in the form of a kinetic action sequence. Action is not easy to write, but Hawk's does a great job.
For the first half of the book I loved the setting, action and characters. However, things take a serious dip in the second half. The book moves from a world of possible truth into hard science fiction, all of a sudden I stopped believing in the story as it was too absurd and did not gel with the first half. Add to this the fact that the sections set in the alternative dimension are dull and you have a book that loses its way. I fear that as part of trilogy that the next book will only ever become more science fiction based. As this was the weakest element of book 1, I can only imagine 2 and 3 getting steadily worse.
By the final pages of 'The Traveller' I did not feel that Hawks needed some grand conspiracy to undo his work, as he achieved this himself. I still enjoyed the book as a whole, but the first part was far better than the second. A set of good characters in a well realised world are all undermined by Hawks' later flights of fancy. As a science fiction fan I have no issue with characters making inter dimensional leaps (in fact, I sometimes require them). What I don't like is a book that becomes bogged down, dull and overly complicated. I will give book 2 a chance in a hope that the strong elements from the first survive.
Author: John Twelve Hawks
Price: amazon uk - £4.94
play.com - £5.99