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Book One of the Fourth Realm Trilogy

Written by John Twelve HawksAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by John Twelve Hawks



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On Sale: June 28, 2005
Pages: 400 | ISBN: 978-0-385-51577-1
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In London, Maya, a young woman trained to fight by her powerful father, uses the latest technology to elude detection when walking past the thousands of surveillance cameras that watch the city. In New York, a secret shadow organization uses a victim’s own GPS to hunt him down and kill him. In Los Angeles, Gabriel, a motorcycle messenger with a haunted past, takes pains to live "off the grid" — free of credit cards and government IDs. Welcome to the world of The Traveler — a world frighteningly like our own.In this compelling novel, Maya fights to save Gabriel, the only man who can stand against the forces that attempt to monitor and control society. From the back streets of Prague to the skyscrapers of Manhattan, The Traveler portrays an epic struggle between tyranny and freedom. Not since 1984 have readers witnessed a Big Brother so terrifying in its implications and in a story that so closely reflects our lives.

Excerpt

PRELUDE

KNIGHT, DEATH, AND THE DEVIL

Maya reached out and took her father’s hand as they walked from the Underground to the light. Thorn didn’t push her away or tell Maya to concentrate on the position of her body. Smiling, he guided her up a narrow staircase to a long, sloping tunnel with white tile walls. The Underground authority had installed steel bars on one side of the tunnel and this barrier made the ordinary passageway look like part of an enormous prison. If she had been traveling alone, Maya might have felt trapped and uncomfortable, but there was nothing to worry about because Father was with her.

It’s the perfect day, she thought. Well, maybe it was the second most perfect day. She still remembered two years ago when Father had missed her birthday and Christmas only to show up on Boxing Day with a taxi full of presents for Maya and her mother. That morning was bright and full of surprises, but this Saturday seemed to promise a more durable happiness. Instead of the usual trip to the empty warehouse near Canary Wharf, where her father taught her how to kick and punch and use weapons, they had spent the day at the London Zoo, where he had told her different stories about each of the animals. Father had traveled all over the world and could describe Paraguay or Egypt as if he were a tour guide.

People had glanced at them as they strolled past the cages. Most Harlequins tried to blend into the crowd, but her father stood out in a group of ordinary citizens. He was German, with a strong nose, ­shoulder-­length hair, and dark blue eyes. Thorn dressed in somber colors and wore a steel kara bracelet that looked like a broken shackle.

Maya had found a battered art history book in the closet of their rented flat in East London. Near the front of the book was a picture by Albrecht Dürer called Knight, Death, and the Devil. She liked to stare at the picture even though it made her feel strange. The armored knight was like her father, calm and brave, riding through the mountains as Death held up an hourglass and the Devil followed, pretending to be a squire. Thorn also carried a sword, but his was concealed inside a metal tube with a leather shoulder strap.

Although she was proud of Thorn, he also made her feel embarrassed and ­self-­conscious. Sometimes she just wanted to be an ordinary girl with a pudgy father who worked in an office–a happy man who bought ­ice-­cream cones and told jokes about kangaroos. The world around her, with its bright fashions and pop music and television shows, was a constant temptation. She wanted to fall into that warm water and let the current pull her away. It was exhausting to be Thorn’s daughter, always avoiding the surveillance of the Vast Machine, always watching for enemies, always aware of the angle of attack.

Maya was twelve years old, but still wasn’t strong enough to use a Harlequin sword. As a substitute, Father had taken a walking stick from the closet and given it to her before they left the flat that morning. Maya had Thorn’s white skin and strong features and her Sikh mother’s thick black hair. Her eyes were such a pale blue that from a certain angle they looked translucent. She hated it when ­well-­meaning women approached her mother and complimented Maya’s appearance. In a few years, she’d be old enough to disguise herself and look as ordinary as possible.

They left the zoo and strolled through Regent’s Park. It was late April and young men were kicking footballs across the muddy lawn while parents pushed ­bundled-­up babies in perambulators. The whole city seemed to be out enjoying the sunshine after three days of rain. Maya and her father took the Piccadilly line to the Arsenal station; it was getting dark when they reached the ­street-­level exit. There was an Indian restaurant in Finsbury Park and Thorn had made reservations for an early supper. Maya heard noises–blaring air horns and shouting in the distance–and wondered if there was some kind of political demonstration. Then Father led her through the turnstile and out into a war.

Standing on the sidewalk, she saw a mob of people marching up Highbury Hill Road. There weren’t any protest signs and banners, and Maya realized that she was watching the end of a football match. The Arsenal Stadium was straight down the road and a team with blue and white colors–that was Chelsea–had just played there. The Chelsea supporters were coming out of the visitors’ gate on the west end of the stadium and heading down a narrow street lined with row houses. Normally it was a quick walk to the station entrance, but now the North London street had turned into a gauntlet. The police were protecting Chelsea from Arsenal football thugs who were trying to attack them and start fights.

Policemen on the edges. Blue and white in the center. Red throwing bottles and trying to break through the line. Citizens caught in front of the crowd scrambled between parked cars and knocked over rubbish bins. Flowering hawthorns grew at the edge of the curb and their pink blossoms trembled whenever someone was shoved against a tree. Petals fluttered through the air and fell upon the surging mass.

The main crowd was approaching the Tube station, about one hundred meters away. Thorn could have gone to the left and headed up Gillespie Road, but he remained on the sidewalk and studied the people surrounding them. He smiled slightly, confident of his own power and amused by the pointless violence of the drones. Along with the sword, he was carrying at least one knife and a handgun obtained from contacts in America. If he wished, he could kill a great many of these people, but this was a public confrontation and the police were in the area. Maya glanced up at her father. We should run away, she thought. These people are completely mad. But Thorn glared at his daughter as if he had just sensed her fear and Maya stayed silent.

Everyone was shouting. The voices merged into one angry roar. Maya heard a ­high-­pitched whistle. The wail of a police siren. A beer bottle sailed through the air and exploded into fragments a few feet away from where they were standing. Suddenly, a flying wedge of red shirts and scarves plowed through the police lines, and she saw men kicking and throwing punches. Blood streamed down a policeman’s face, but he raised his truncheon and fought back.

She squeezed Father’s hand. “They’re coming toward us,” she said. “We need to get out of the way.”

Thorn turned around and pulled his daughter back into the entrance of the Tube station as if to find refuge there. But now the police were driving the Chelsea supporters forward like a herd of cattle and she was surrounded by men wearing blue. Caught in the crowd, Maya and her father were pushed past the ticket booth where the elderly clerk cowered behind the thick glass.

Father vaulted over the turnstile and Maya followed. Now they were back in the long tunnel, heading down to the trains. It’s all right, she thought. We’re safe now. Then she realized that men wearing red had forced their way into the tunnel and were running beside them. One of the men was carrying a wool sock filled with something heavy–rocks, ball bearings–and he swung it like a club at the old man just in front of her, knocking off the man’s glasses and breaking his nose. A gang of Arsenal thugs slammed a Chelsea supporter against the steel bars on the left side of the tunnel. The man tried to get away as they kicked and beat him. More blood. And no police anywhere.

Thorn grabbed the back of Maya’s jacket and dragged her through the fighting. A man tried to attack them and Father stopped him instantly with a quick, snapping punch to the throat. Maya hurried down the tunnel, trying to reach the stairway. Before she could react, something like a rope came over her right shoulder and across her chest. Maya looked down and saw that Thorn had just tied a blue and white Chelsea scarf around her body.

In an instant she realized that the day at the zoo, the amusing stories, and the trip to the restaurant were all part of a plan. Father had known about the football game, had probably been here before and timed their arrival. She glanced over her shoulder and saw Thorn smile and nod as if he had just told her an amusing story. Then he turned and walked away.

Maya spun around as three Arsenal supporters ran forward, yelling at her. Don’t think. React. She jabbed the walking stick like a javelin and the steel tip hit the tallest man’s forehead with a crack. Blood spurted from his head and he began to fall, but she was already spinning around to trip the second man with the stick. As he stumbled backward, she jumped high and kicked his face. He spun around and hit the floor. Down. He’s down. She ran forward and kicked him again.

As she regained her balance, the third man caught her from behind and lifted her off the ground. He squeezed tightly, trying to break her ribs, but Maya dropped the stick, reached back with both hands, and grabbed his ears. The man screamed as she flipped him over her shoulder and onto the floor.

Maya reached the stairway, took the stairs two at a time, and saw Father standing on the platform next to the open doors of a train. He grabbed her with his right hand and used his left to force their way into the car. The doors moved back and forth and finally closed. Arsenal supporters ran up to the train, pounding on the glass with their fists, but the train lurched forward and headed down the tunnel.

People were packed together. She heard a woman weeping as the boy in front of her pressed a handkerchief against his mouth and nose. The car went around a curve and she fell against her father, burying her face in his wool overcoat. She hated him and loved him, wanted to attack him and embrace him–all at the same time. Don’t cry, she thought. He’s watching you. Harlequins don’t cry. And she bit her lower lip so hard that she broke the skin and tasted her own blood.


From the Hardcover edition.
John Twelve Hawks|Author Q&A

About John Twelve Hawks

John Twelve Hawks - The Traveler
John Twelve Hawks is the author of the New York Times Bestseller, The Traveler.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with John Twelve Hawks
Author of THE TRAVELER

Q: THE TRAVLER evokes a variety of films and books–everything from George Orwell to the Matrix. Where did you take your inspiration from?

A: George Orwell is a favorite writer of mine and I liked the first Matrix, but the creation of the novel goes much deeper than that. When I sat down to write THE TRAVELER I didn’t think about being published. I simply wanted to understand the world around me. Sometimes the best way to find the truth is to create a fiction.

Q: Can you describe the differences between the three main character types in the book: Travelers, Harlequins, Tabula?

A: Travelers are a small group of people who have the ability to send their spirit to other worlds. The Harlequins are an ancient order of warriors who defend the Travelers. The Tabula is an organization that believes that mankind is a tabula rasa — a blank slate that can be scrawled with their ideas. They are determined to destroy the Travelers. These three groups are fictional but their struggle takes place within a very realistic environment.

Q: Is John Twelve Hawks your real name?

A: I wasn’t given the name John Twelve Hawks at birth. It’s an adopted name — just like the names the Harlequins chose at a certain time of their lives. This name has great personal significance for me, but it’s not relevant to understanding the book.

Q: One of your characters, Gabriel, lives “off the Grid,” avoiding detection by what you call the “Vast Machine.” Can you explain what you mean by this and why you yourself have chosen to live this way as well?

A: For me, living off the Grid means existing in a way that can’t be tracked by the government or large corporations. The Vast Machine is the very powerful — and very real — computerized information system that monitors all aspects of our lives.

I live off the Grid by choice, but my decision includes one factor that is relevant to the publication of THE TRAVELER. I want people to focus on the book itself and not on its author. The typical “personal slant” of most media arts coverage trivializes the power of ideas — and there are a great many provocative ideas in this novel. Everyone who reads THE TRAVELER is going to be entertained by an exciting story. A smaller group is going to be inspired to see our computerized world in a new way.

Q: How do you correspond with your publisher and how do you plan to correspond with readers?

A: I have never met my editor or any of the staff at Doubleday. I talk to them using a satellite phone or we communicate through the internet. I haven’t really thought about how I’m going to answer reader questions but it will probably be through a non-traceable website.

Q: Your message in the book about the end of privacy in our society is frightening. How much of what you portray is true and how much is pure invention?

A: It’s all true — based on years of research. Email messages are scanned by a program called Carnivore and programs linked to surveillance cameras use algorithms to identify you instantly. Some of the facts in THE TRAVELER — such as the description of the new “computational immunology” program developed by the Royal Mail in Britain — have never been described in any book.

Q: What, if any, suggestions do you have for people who are concerned about identity theft, the Patriot Act, phone and internet surveillance and other invasions of everyday privacy? Some of your characters agitate against the Vast Machine. Would you advise this?

A: This first step is to be aware of what is going on. Most of us have given up our privacy without even knowing it. At some point, we need to express our opinions to our elected officials. The growing power of the Vast Machine is actually not an issue that is tied to a particular political party. A traditional conservative like former Georgia Congressman Robert Barr is on the same side of the privacy issue as the ACLU. The most important thing is that we not succumb to the baseless fear that is used to justify our loss of personal liberty. People objected when the government proposed something called the Total Information Awareness system: a computerized program that would track virtually all of our electronic transactions. When the name of the program was changed to the Terrorist Information Awareness system — just one new word — all the criticism vanished.

Q: The settings in the book are captured in vivid detail–the Charles Bridge in Prague, the California desert, the back alleys of East London. Was travel a big part of your research?

A: My agent once asked me how long it took me to write THE TRAVELER and I answered: “All my life.” I didn’t do any particular research for the locations in the novel. I simply drew on the memories of different places where I’ve visited, lived or worked. Virtually all the locations in the book are real. For example, there is a system of abandoned missile silos in Arizona and Jeremy Bentham’s dead body is on public display at University College London.

Q: The scenes of violence in the book also seem very real — not Hollywood fantasies.

A: I studied martial arts for several years and have fought both in tournaments and on the street. Maya and the other Harlequins have been trained since childhood to fight, but they’re not super human; they can be hurt or killed. Readers have told me that they’ve found the scenes of violence in THE TRAVELER to be incredibly exciting because they’re not sure what’s going to happen. This duplicates my own experience creating the book. Every time I began to write a scene that involved fighting I had no idea if my characters were going to survive.

Q: Family seems to be both a blessing and a curse in the novel. As Maya says: “Damned by the flesh. Saved by the blood.” Care to elaborate?

A: It was only after I finished the first draft of THE TRAVELER that I realized how many of the characters are haunted by their fathers. Maya loved her father, Thorn, but he also destroyed her childhood. Gabriel and Michael Corrigan thought that their father was killed by the Tabula, but now there are signs that his ghost is alive. A crucial secondary character named Lawrence Takawa changes his entire life in honor of a father he has never met.

Q: At one point in the novel, your protagonist Maya explains that there is a secret history of the world, a history of “warriors defending pilgrims or other spiritual seekers.” Do you believe this? What do you think is the role of faith in modern society?

A: There has been a continual battle throughout history between institutions that try to control our lives and those visionaries who emphasize the value of the human spirit. Right now, there’s a determined attempt to reduce all human behavior to biochemistry. If Joan of Arc was alive today she’d be put on Prozac. Faith can give us a larger perspective on our own lives as well as the world that surrounds us.

Q: You seem to combine Eastern religion, mysticism and new age spirituality in your discussion of Gabriel’s education. The novel also suggests that Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, even an obscure Rabbi from Poland may have all been Travelers–which begs the question: What (if any) is your religious affiliation?

A: When I was in my twenties, I was an atheist and proud of it. Now I believe in God and pray every day but I’m not a member of any organized religion. Travelers are guided by teachers called Pathfinders and I’ve dedicated the trilogy to my own personal Pathfinders. I’ve had several and they’ve included a Catholic priest, a Presbyterian minister, a scholar who was an orthodox Jew, and a Buddhist monk. I’m not going to minimize the differences between religions but they all have one thing in common: they teach the power of compassion and encourage that quality in our own hearts.

Q: This is the first book in a trilogy. Any hints for readers about what they can expect from Books Two and Three?

A: In Book Two, a tough Irish Harlequin named Mother Blessing will enter the story; she’s already forcing her way into my dreams. Expect some surprises involving Maya, Gabriel, and the Tabula mercenary, Nathan Boone. I’m not manipulating these characters to fit a plot. They seem to have their own ideas about what they want to do.


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

“This novel’s a stunner. . . . You won’t want to put the book down.” –People

“The stuff that first-rate high-tech paranoid-schizophrenic thrillers are made of.” –Time

“A fearless, brilliant action heroine (think Uma Thurman in Kill Bill); a secret history of the world; a tale of brother against brother . . . and nonstop action as the forces of good and evil battle it out. . . . Readers won’t regret taking this wild ride.” –The Times-Picayune

“Gripping. . . . Fresh and fascinating. . . . Impossible to put down.”–Daily News
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Suggestions

About the Book

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

“This novel’s a stunner. . . . You won’t want to put the book down.” —People

The introduction, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of The Traveler, an excursion into a vividly imagined world that stretches many of today’s disturbing realities to their logical and profoundly frightening conclusions.

About the Guide

Maya, a young graphic designer living in London, is summoned to Prague by her ailing father, Thorn. It is the beginning of a journey Maya has anticipated and dreaded all her life. For Maya and Thorn are Harlequins, warriors sworn to protect the Travelers—prophets and sages with the ability to travel to other realms and bring wisdom back to earth. Throughout history, Travelers have been systematically hunted down and destroyed by the Tabula, a ruthless organization determined to control the lives and the minds of ordinary citizens. Now, Thorn has learned of Michael and Gabriel Corrigan, the sons of a long-missing Traveler who are living in California. If they have inherited their father’s gift, Maya knows she must safeguard them at any cost.

The Corrigan brothers have always lived “off the grid,” avoiding the inquisitive eyes and questions of the authorities. But new technologies have greatly increased the power and reach of the Tabula and they have homed in on Michael and Gabriel. As Maya pursues her dangerous mission, the Tabula’s Vast Machine tracks her from Prague to Los Angeles and to the bowels of their own research center just outside of New York City. With each move and counter move, the world edges closer and closer toward the ultimate confrontation between the forces of freedom and those of oppression.

A gripping and moving novel, The Traveler melds the fast pace of an espionage thriller, chilling descriptions of the costs of conformity and complacency, and age-old spiritual questions into a stunning exploration of the quest for power in an age of technological, political, and social manipulation.

About the Author

John Twelve Hawks lives off the grid. This is his first novel.

Explore the world of The Traveler and participate in a mission to locate an undercover Harlequin at www.Traveler-Book.com

Discussion Guides

1. Maya has been trained since childhood to be a Harlequin, yet she chooses to live a normal life. What aspects of her upbringing play the largest part in her decision? In what ways does her relationship with Thorn exemplify the conflicts any daughter might have with a strong, distant father?

2. Are Thorn’s demands on Maya justified? Under what circumstances, if any, do children have a responsibility to renounce their own way of life and dedicate themselves to their parent’s cause? Why does Maya ultimately decide to honor her father’s request?

3. Discuss the meaning and ramifications of the Harlequin motto, “Damned by the flesh. Saved by the blood” [p. 22/mm 23*]. What familiar moral percepts or sayings embody the same or a similar message?

*Page references are provided throughout this guide for both trade and mass market editions; the trade appears first, followed by a slash and the mass market page reference.

4. Nathan Boone believes that he is “part of a historical battle against the forces of disorder” [p. 26/mm 27] and that “order and discipline were the values that kept Western civilization from falling apart” [p. 27/mm 28]. Can you cite specific periods or events in history that support this point of view? Does an emphasis on “order and discipline” necessarily lead to tyranny?

5. The Traveler is set in a world very much like our own. How accurately does the author describe the use—and possible abuse—of technology? Do any of the surveillance techniques the Tabula employ seem entirely far-fetched?

6. The Harlequin mentality requires “no compassion, no attachments, no mercy” [p. 72/mm 75]. Do the relationships among the Harlequins in the novel conform to this ideal? Can any group function successfully without the members feeling a sense of attachment to one another? Does the sharing of a common goal, for example, adequately explain Maya’s feelings about Mother Blessing, Linden, Willow, and even the traitor, Shepherd?

7. Dr. Richardson maintains, “while the priests continue to pray and the philosophers continue to speculate, it is the neuroscientists who are closest to answering mankind’s fundamental questions”[p. 79/mm 81–82]. Have you heard about or read studies that offer convincing evidence that scientists are on the brink of answering those questions? Has science rendered the insights of religious thinkers and philosophers irrelevant? Can a spiritual or philosophical approach offer an understanding of history and human behavior that science cannot replace?

8. From the central characters to the secondary figures, the characters in The Traveler make choices about how to use their individual power. Discuss the influence of their backgrounds, religious beliefs, and real-world experiences on the decisions made by the following characters: Maya, Nathan Boone, Kennard Nash, Lawrence Tawaka, Vicki Fraser. Are the Brethren motivated purely by self-interest and the desire for control? Are Maya and her supporters acting purely out of idealism?

9. Maya recounts the “secret history of the world” to Gabriel, Vicki, and Hollis [pp. 185–86/mm 191–92], identifying some of the Travelers who have changed the course of human history. Although it is based on the conceits of the novel, does Maya’s account present a credible interpretation of the forces that have shaped history? What makes her descriptions of Travelers and of the Harlequins persuasive?

10. In explaining the Brethren’s plans for him, Kennard Nash tells Michael, “These days people are frightened of the world around them, and that fear is easily encouraged and maintained. People want to be in our Virtual Panopticon. We’ll watch over them like good shepherds” [p. 237/mm 246]. Have leaders, both in America and around the world, taken advantage of the fear and uncertainty many people feel to impose their own political or religious agendas? If so, how?

11. Gabriel meets with the Pathfinder at an abandoned missile site. How does the physical setting embody the real terrors and challenges Gabriel faces? In what ways does it enhance the mythic themes that run through the novel?

12. Sophia calls the 99 Paths, “a practical list of ideas with the same goal: to break the Light free of your body,” allowing Travelers to enter the different “realms” or “parallel worlds” [pp. 324–26/mm 339–41]. Have you, either through your religious education or independent experience, encountered the idea that other realms exist? If so, is Sophia’s explanation consistent with your previous knowledge or beliefs? Whether or not you are a newcomer to this idea, do you find it to be a helpful or inspiring approach to spirituality?

13. The novel touches on many contemporary issues: the fear of terrorism and the role of the government in protecting the nation; the growing complacency of American citizens; the misuse/abuse of technology; and scientific contributions to improving quality of life for the individual and society as a whole. How balanced are the points of view the author offers on each subject? Are good and evil always clearly defined?

14. The narrative point of view alternates among the characters. Which character is the most realistically drawn? Who do you identify most closely with and why?

15. How does the plot of The Traveler follow the arc of a traditional thriller? What does it share with other science fiction novels you have read?

16. The Traveler is the first book in a trilogy. Which characters would you like to learn more about in future volumes? Are there other aspects of “the secret history of the world” that the author should explore?

Suggested Readings

Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits; Isaac Asimov, The Gods Themselves; Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451;
Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code; Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange; Octavia Butler, Dawn; Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game; Philip K. Dick, The Penultimate Truth; Valerie J. Freireich, Becoming Human; William Gibson, Neuromancer; Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land; Frank Herbert, Dune; Aldous Huxley, Brave New World; Ursula K. LeGuin, Dispossessed; George Orwell, 1984; Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon; Bruce Sterling, Schismatrix Plus.

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