He knew that newspapers and television announcers reported on a certain level of reality. What was happening to him was on another level, like a parallel universe. All around him, different societies were growing larger or being destroyed, forming new traditions or breaking the rules while citizens pretended that the faces shown on television were the only important stories.
–The Traveler, John Twelve Hawks
The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks was the only non-digital book I brought to America; I assumed I would enjoy it without feeling the need to read it again—my requirement for releasing a book back into the wild. I was right.
This is a fun book that keeps you turning pages, a thriller, and I enjoyed the ride. But the dystopian elements didn’t do much for me. The ultimate message—that surveillance culture and panopticon-ical control are a bad idea—is an important one, but the capitalized terms for things (like the Vast Machine aka the government/culture of computerized control) didn’t ring out like a note of genius among the muck, the way a well-invented Sf/F term can and should. The story itself is based around a fierce female body guard (a Harlequin) who is (reluctantly!) sworn to protect a man whose spirit can leave his body (a Traveler) and was a bit too alienating-yet-cookie-cutter for me. But this is the new Big Brother! But everything happening in the society of this book is happening right now! Yes. Yet it still didn’t stimulate many brain cells. It still was a bit too lollipop-ish. And I fucking hate hearing story after story about the godsdamned Templar mythology, which Twelve Hawks weaves, albeit sparsely, into the book’s secret-society back-story without blinking.
But I did like it; let’s be clear about that. However, I doubt I will feel the need to read it again in my lifetime, and I’m releasing its pages back into the wild. Before I do, I thought I’d preserve one more handful of its words in blog formaldehyde.
On an intentional community the book’s characters encounter:
“We didn’t want to run away from the world and pretend to be medieval farmers,” Martin said. “Our objective was to gain control of our lives and prove that this Third Way of ours can work. There are other groups like New Harmony—the same mix of high tech and low tech—and we’re all connected by the Internet.”
The Third Way. Not going backwards, like so many off-grid intentional groups are accused of doing, but moving forwards by picking and choosing from all of the tools available to them. I like the ring of that.