The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks is one of those much hyped fantasy books that seem to be all the rage lately. The book is based on the premise that we all live on “the grid” as “citizens” and that as such we’re being watched and tracked constantly by computers (credit card transactions, mobile phones, Internet etc…), surveillance cameras, airline travel etc… We have no privacy and our lives are filled with artificial desires by “the vast machine”. Harlequins (modern day samurai warriors) and Travelers (modern day prophets who leave their bodies behind to travel to other realms) together resist the Tabula (a secret organisation that controls or hijacks the vast machine). It makes for a good thriller and very obvious material for Hollywood as it contains the typical thriller/fight/new age philosophy mix that the Matrix helped popularize. The script has already been sold to Universal.

The subject is very actual and reminds one of the speed at which the London terrorists were tracked by the extensive British surveillance systems. It highlights the problem of privacy in the computer age and the questions posed by ever more stringent terrorist laws (Patriot Act anyone …). Good science fiction is almost always based on foundations visible in the real world.

John Twelve Hawks (a pseudonym of course) says he lives “off the grid” like his characters in the book. He says he does it to detract from the attention that normally goes to a succesful author so that all attention remains focused on the book itself. In my opinion, this only adds to what bothers me most about this book : it’s simply feels too much like good marketing. All the ingredients are there, all the way to the mysterious author. And of course it’s going to be a trilogy ;-) Even though it was a fun read, it never felt sincere.