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REVIEW: "The Traveler", John Twelve Hawks

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Han
    BKTRAVLR.RVW 20080217 The Traveler , John Twelve Hawks, 2005, 0-385-66135-5, C$32.95 %A John Twelve Hawks en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Twelve_Hawks %C One
    Message 1 of 1 , May 29, 2008
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      BKTRAVLR.RVW 20080217

      "The Traveler", John Twelve Hawks, 2005, 0-385-66135-5, C$32.95
      %A John Twelve Hawks en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Twelve_Hawks
      %C One Toronto Street, Unit 300, Toronto, ON, Canada M5C 2V6
      %D 2005
      %G 0-385-66135-5
      %I Random House of Canada Limited/Doubeday
      %O C$32.95 416-364-4449 Fax 416-364-6863 randomhouse.ca
      %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385661355/robsladesinterne
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385661355/robsladesinte-21
      %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385661355/robsladesin03-20
      %O Audience n- Tech 1 Writing 1 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
      %P 456 p.
      %T "The Traveler"

      Since John Twelve Hawks refuses to say who he is, there is a lot of
      speculation about that. To give you some clues to his (or her)
      identity, "The Traveler" (as well as "The Dark River," the second book
      of what is supposed to be an unfinished trilogy) is what you might get
      if Deepak Chopra and Philip Pullman were asked to write a "book based
      on the films" conflating both "Enemy of the State" and "Live Free or
      Die Hard." If you can get your head around that, you might enjoy this
      story.

      The Buddhists (well, *some* Buddhists) tell us that there are six
      realms of existence. The author says that some people (Travelers) can
      travel (incorporeally) between the realms. If other people, who can't
      travel between the realms (Pathfinders), teach them how. Those who do
      travel to the other realms become wise and compassionate people who
      also get to be great lie detectors (if they concentrate). How they
      get to be wise and compassionate is not revealed, so the fact that
      some of them turn out not to be wise and compassionate; but greedy,
      mean, and power-hungry; is only as surprising as the fact that they
      sometimes turn out to be wise and compassionate.

      A group of people known as the Tabula or the Brethren (depending upon
      the group to whom you are talking) have been hunting down and killing
      Travelers for millennia, although they didn't really know why until
      the philosopher Jeremy Bentham invented the Panopticon, his
      theoretical prison where the jailers could see all the prisoners, but
      the prisoners wouldn't see the jailers. At that point, the Tab/Breth
      realized that they needed to implement the Panopticon by spying on
      everyone, and realized that the Panopticon wouldn't work if some
      people were able to leave their bodies and come back with wisdom and
      compassion. (Why wouldn't the Panopticon work when there are
      compassionate people in the world? Sorry, that is left as an exercise
      for the reader.) Somehow the Tab/Breth have always been rich and
      powerful, even though the idea of spying on the masses hasn't been a
      major idea until recently.

      Another set (it's hard to say group, since these guys are the ultimate
      paranoiacs, and don't even trust each other) of people, called
      Harlequins, have been protecting Travelers, or, at least, trying to
      keep them from being killed. Both Harlequins and Pathfinders seem to
      be deeply contemptuous of Travelers, as well as being haughtily
      disdainful of love and compassion, so it is hard to understand why
      anyone bothers.

      The rest of us live within the Vast Machine of unthinking consumerism,
      credit cards, and RFID chips embedded in our foreheads and wrists ...
      oh, sorry, back of the hand. (It's hard to keep these newage
      syncretistic mythologies straight, sometimes.) Except for some
      isolated groups who live "off the Grid," without credit cards and RFID
      equipped passports. Some of these groups live pastoral "back to the
      land" type lives, and others scavenge in the sewers and subways under
      major cities. These groups can be contacted by looking for two secret
      graphical symbols in public places, or by posting messages on public
      bulletin boards on the Internet. Somehow the Tab/Breth, despite
      almost unlimited budget and manpower, diligent searching on the
      Internet (including hacking into Carnivore and using it for their own
      searches), and the release of viruses onto the Internet (which, unlike
      real computer viruses, actually scamper around from computer to
      computer like little mice running down the bitstreams) haven't been
      able to figure this out.

      The use of technology in the story gives us some more clues about John
      Twelve Hawks. He/she obviously likes the Internet, but doesn't know
      anything about basic computer technologies, including viruses. He
      (and the off-the-grids) don't know anything about encryption,
      anonymizing technologies, ad hoc authentication, or onion routing.
      The Tab/Breth are trying to use quantum computing (although they
      really have no idea why), and are using one of the real (though not
      the most promising) technologies, but obviously nobody has ever seen
      liquid helium. (One of the interesting characteristics of Helium II
      is that it actually has no turbulence at all, so the roiling pea soup
      described in the book would not be an issue.) The quantum computer is
      currently just being used to invite someone from another realm to come
      and visit. (At least two of the realms house some very nasty people,
      and the Tab/Breth are at least as paranoid as the Harlequins, so it is
      difficult to understand this eagerness. However, since the Tab/Breth
      have been killing Travelers as fast as they can find them, maybe they
      don't know this ...)

      In another few years the third book may come out and explain all of
      this. It'll have a major job to do ...

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2008 BKTRAVLR.RVW 20080217


      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... slade@... rslade@...
      Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev/rms.htm
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