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.
I just finished listening to another book from Audible : Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes. This is not at all my usual fare but as I work in fashion, every so often, I decide to read up. It’s a fictional account about a twenty-something New York fashion journalist (Plum Sykes herself works for Vogue and is one of Anna Wintour’s protégés so she knows what she’s writing about…) who is well integrated into New York high society. She’s a stereotypical wannabe Park Avenue princess who obsesses about ATM’s (rich boyfriends), rides on PJs (private jets), Manolo’s, Marc Jacobs, diamonds (preferrably Harry Winston) and who’s life has about as much depth as the champagne bubble to which she sometimes compares herself. But I couldn’t help being charmed by her. The story is really funny escapism and reminded me a bit what we in the fashion business are actually trying to sell: dreams of the perfect life. This audiobook was absolutely wonderfully read by Sonya Walger and really makes for a perfect example of how a book can be enhanced a hundredfold when it’s well read. Like with any good book, I was sad when it ended and I had to leave the characters behind. I had fun with Moi. I think I even miss her a little 😉
I live about an hours drive from work so I spend at least two hours a day in my car. I own a 20 Gb iPod (one of the best gadgets ever…). And I have found a way to make those tedious drives something to look forward to every day. I love reading but end up having little time for it so now I listen to books. I download them via Audible.com where I have subscribed to the premium listener program which gives me two books a month for 19.95 $. This might not seem like much but a 1000 page book translates into over 40 hours of listening so it’s quite sufficient for the amount of time I have. The book choice is very large and they’re usually read by actors though sometimes they’re read by the author’s themselves (Hillary Clinton reading her own autobiography gives quite an added dimension to the experience). It all makes for very good entertainment. I’ve been a member for some years now but two recent books really stand out : The Memory of Running by Ron Mclarty and the three books that to date comprise The Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin.
Let’s start with The Memory of Running. This book is an audiobook only. That is, it has never existed as a book. It’s read by the author who is an actor. It tells the story of a fat average american who loses his parents and sister in a very short interval and goes on something of a quest to retrieve himself whilst cycling across America. Nothing of his quest is intended. Everything sorts of happens to him but ends being at times funny, poignant, often touching, and we learn to love him, his sister and parents while he finds himself and love across America. America itself is portrayed both beautiful and harsh, warm and cruel, full of paradoxes. It’s a great story, heartwarming and fantastically told. The movie rights have apparently been sold and I really hope to see it one day as a movie.
Next, The Song of Ice and Fire by George R;R. Martin. To date three books have been published in this series: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords. It’s a great fantasy epic telling of the battles and politics in a medieval kingdom split by civil war. I have read many such fantasy series (Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Anne McKinley etc…) but this one really stands out. Each chapter tells the story from a characters point of view and over a dozen characters give us the whole picture. From book to book we follow these characters (with some dying and new ones appearing) through the politics, the battles, the travels, their loves and hates and we experience this civil war from many angles preventing us from taking sides but not from caring. The actor who reads here, Roy Dotrice, adopts a different accent and voice for each character and really brings everything to life. After somewhere near 160 hours in the company of these characters and nearing the end, I acn honestly say that I will miss them and that I greatly look forward to the next installment in the series.