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Book Review: The Traveler &#8211 Hyping Your Way to the Bestseller List

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Hype. The modern American way of getting attention. It seems to have worked for John Twelve Hawks, the pseudonym for the author of The Traveler.

The book is a cautionary tale set in the near future (or today) about the pervasiveness of surveillance and intrusions on privacy. Twelve Hawks claims to live “off the grid,” avoiding contact with “the Vast Machine,” the worldwide system of computer systems and cameras that track our daily lives. Twelve Hawks isn’t doing a book tour. He doesn’t do media appearances or interviews. He has not met with his publisher in person, speaking only by satellite phone. Random House has launched a sophisticated web page for the book. There are plans for it to be the first in a three-book series, and the movie rights already have been optioned.

All this hype has pushed Twelve Hawks and his book into the pages of the national press and on to The New York Times bestseller list. Hype may be necessary because the tale boils down to a battle between the Illuminati and Buddhist/new age philosophy over whether anyone will retain any privacy in the modern world.

The world of The Traveler consists basically of four groups. At top are the Brethren, also know as the Tabula. They control the computer systems and surveillance cameras, and are the shadows behind what are essentially puppet governments. For decades, they have been hunting and exterminating The Travelers, individuals with the ability to have their inner “Light” leave their body and travel to different realms. Travelers have been responsible for bringing beneficial change to the world throughout history. Travelers are guarded by the Harlequins, ninja-like martial arts and weapons experts whose sole purpose is to protect Travelers from harm and combat the Tabula. Like the Brethren, Harlequins have virtually disappeared in modern society. Everyone else is a “citizen,” more accurately, drones going about their lives ignorant of the true state of affairs.

Almost all Travelers have been eradicated, but the Brethren now want to find a Traveler and use a quantum computer to map his or her brain during travel to another realm. Michael and Gabriel Corrigan are the sons of a Traveler believed to have been killed by the Tabula when they were adolescents. The Corrigans, though, do not know their father was a Traveler. In fact, no one knows if Michael or Gabriel might be Travelers. Still, the Brethren are searching for them, to find out if they are Travelers and, if so, make one or both of them part of their plan. At the same time, Maya, a Harlequin in England who has fought being a Harlequin her entire life, sets out on a mission to locate and protect the Corrigans from the Brethren.

Twelve Hawks bases this good vs. evil story on a confrontation between an amalgam of ideas and modern technology. The Brethren plainly are patterned on the Illuminati, and seek to render society a “virtual Panopticon.” The Panopticon was a prison designed by 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham, in which every inmate could be under continuous surveillance with a minimum of guards or effort, without the inmates knowing if they were currently being observed. Likewise, the realms Travelers visit are six realms from Buddhist teaching. Our world is the fourth realm, the realm of humans.

The Brethren avail themselves of many of the buzzwords of post-9/11 society, such as the “Carnivore” software used to track electronic communications, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, and the “Terrorism Information Awareness” program proposed by the Pentagon. The Travelers, in turn, may be proof of “brane theory,” a current theory in physics that indicates there are more than just our three physical dimensions. There is even use of a variation of neural implants for depression, a treatment just approved by the FDA last week.

Still, this book’s success to date seems to be based on its hype. Telling the public you’ve published a book examining threats to our privacy in the context of a battle between the Illuminati and new-agers isn’t likely to put the book on the bestseller list. Yet that is exactly what this is. Moreover, the characters tend to be clichéd and flat. It is also heavy-handed at times. For example, the head of security for the Brethren’s project to find and utilize a Traveler says things like:

Freedom is the biggest myth ever created. It’s a destructive, unachievable goal that has caused a great deal of pain. Very few people can handle freedom. A society is healthy and productive when it’s under control.

Most infuriating is the book does not indicate to or otherwise forewarn the reader that it is only the first of a series. As such, there is no real resolution; The Traveler largely introduces the character cast and sets the stage for future books. Absent having obtained the information elsewhere, the reader finds this out with the last six words of the book: “Book One of the Fourth Realm.”

While The Traveler does raise interesting issues about the loss of privacy in modern society, it doesn’t rise above the level of a summer read. And hiding the ball on being only the first in a series means any future books in this realm&#8212or any other&#8212are coming from the local library, not my pocketbook.
Edited: PC

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About Tim Gebhart

After 30 years of practicing law to provide shelter for his family, books and dogs. Tim Gebhart is now perfecting the art of doing little more than reading, writing and sleeping.
  • Perhaps the author is trying for a Scientology/Battlefield Earth kind of thing, a la L. Ron Hubbard…

  • This book review has been selected for Advance.net. You’ll be able to find this and other Blog Critics reviews at such places as Cleveland.com’s Book Reviews column.

  • Michelle

    I liked this book, even if it did make me very uncomfortable for awhile. Or maybe that’s actually why I liked it… I haven’t decided. It did get me thinking about how much I am willing to give up for the illusion of safety and security.

  • Boa

    Is it a coincidence that the Traveller by “so called” John T.Hawks” was published by the same publishing house as Dan Brown’s books?The topic and style when I read this book is also very like Brown’s. Well if that’s for getting one more best selling book its a masterful move.

  • dannecgf

    I thought the book was great. I’m tired of books not trying to push the envelope of what is acceptable. That’s what made Da Vinci’s Code great and now this book.

  • Josiah

    Well there seems to be a ton of speculation about John Twelve Hawks. Like how is he getting paid. Anonymously? And if so how?

    If he actually lives off the grid how come he drives a 15 year old car? Surely it must be registered somewhere? Etc. etc.

    These are intelligent questions to ask, and even more easy to answer. For those of you who “live on the grid” you may think it hard to be able to stay so invisible. However when you know how, living off the grid is surprisingly easy (sure it needs some serious planning though) but “doing it” just takes grit and determination.

    If you’re actually interested in the IDEAS behind The Traveler, rather than whether it is a well written book, you may want to checkout this site Live Off The Grid which explores practical ways to “live off the grid” like Twelve Hawks claims he does.

  • Bob

    Good review by Gebhart, although half-way through the book I realized it was just setting up a series. Even money says the realm that wants to travel to ours is actually a hell dimension that wants to rule the earth. I enjoyed the book because it is a nice conventional fast paced read. But don’t expect much substance. For all the talk of realms the characters never make it beyond two dimensions.

  • Doug

    I liked it. A fast paced adventure story with more than its fair share of interesting ideas. I also thought the “splicers” an incredibly nasty foe that will be leaping off movie screens a few summers from now.

    What no one has yet mentioned is that the story puts forward as fictional fantasy the idea of a “Traveler”. The fact is, they do exist in our world today.

    The spiritual cynics and the know it alls may poo poo it, but for those who are truly adventurous, 2 bonafide groups with thousands of practitioners are showing people today how to travel into higher realms, making the story that much more compelling.

    More information can be found at:


  • Henry94

    I picked this up as part of a three for two package without knowing anything about it. I must say I enjoyed it. Good story and cracking pace. If there´s a bit of hype involved then so what?

    I´m looking forward to the next one.

  • 12 Hawks

    Why the hec should I use a pseudonym?? Have you ever considered the idea I may be a Hopi Indian?
    Go back to your history books, and finally read something about my people…
    Then start The Traveler all over again and understand.

  • Monifa Johnson

    I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of the Yaqui way of knowledge. I want to meet 12 Hawks. He seems extremely deep. It is time for native Americans to put more of their theology or cosmology out there for those who are tired of a monoworld. We all know on some level that there is more to it than this.

  • Eggz

    I’m reading the Traveller and lovin’ every minute of it! It’s got me thinking twice, which I think is a good thing.

  • Wayne

    The book was great! Sometimes we just want to be taken to a place where the mind is allowed to expand – this book does that. I can not wait for the next in the series. I listened to the book using Audible and maybe that was why I feel so strongly about it – it was great and I would suggest to others to get an audio copy and see what you feel.

  • Ian

    I guess I’m enjoying this book in the way that I enjoy Joss Whedon productions. fast, flashy, dispensable entertainment.

    As for the ideas in the book itself, I suppose there’ll always be a market for pseudo-spiritual babble ala Celestine Prophecy. Reference to Jesus and Buddha as visionaries of the same ilk does not a deep book make.

  • This is possibly the worst review I’ve seen of this book so far. First off, as someone well versed in most topics covered by the book, the “Brethren” are not even remotely based on the Illuminati, an actual group with no global-control interests founded by Adam Weishaupt a couple hundred and some years ago. If anything, the “Brethren” are based on the old money and power families of Europe and the Unites States that control vast corporate and media multinational conglomerates, and would like nothing more than more power, more money, and more control.

    This review comes off an extremely thin diatribe by an extremely transparent “blogcritic”: “Anything something hyped comes out, I like to bash it to appear trendy and uber-indie. I don’t really know what I’m talking about because I, as a blogger, have absolutely no literary credentials to my name. I couldn’t understand most of the medical or philosophical terminology of the book because I don’t have to the faintest clue as to what protein glycomics are or the Allegory of the Cave is. I figure that the author only knows about the scary surveillance progams of various goverments after 9/11 because that’s when I found out about them. I have no idea that Carnivore’s been active for nearly a decade and that a similar program enacted by the US and British governments over 7 years ago was discovered in France and neighboring countries by their intelligence community, running without their knowledge.”

    Bloggers, if you ever want to be taken seriously, get some credentials. Please.

  • I loved this book and it’s characters. I enjoyed reading something where I hadn’t figured out the plot before I read it.
    The best part about it was the last line of text. I can’t wait until the next addition is out. Wish I knew how long the wait will be.

  • Danni

    Love the book. Can’t wait for the next one. I especially enjoyed the character Thomas Walks the Ground. A strong native, with convictions enough to take to the grave. The only thing I’d love to see in an upcoming book is an Artist character. There must be art in this world, and as a writer/editor/artist, I would love to see a character who embodies this important aspect of society. John Twelve Hawks, if you’re listening, keep on keeping off the grid. It’s a lifestyle that works.

  • the traveler was fun reading.
    here comes the ‘but.’
    i am tired of entertainers making their living off writing about violence and firearms who don’t use the gunnies vocabulary and phrasing.
    why call the ‘chamber’ a ‘firing chamber’?
    why say ‘putting one in the chamber’ instead of saying ‘chambering’?
    why say one is ‘in the chamber’ instead of ‘chambered’?
    i have seen evidence that some authors merely read each other in place of research- example: in the seventies, two authors used the same long phrasing of slipping off the safety on a common revolver- and when i recently wrote a famous author about his off the mark descriptions he wrote back that most of his readers did not know one end from the other.

  • micki

    I’m in the midst of the book and enjoying it tremendously. I am also a little bit familiar with the lore the author infers. I think that the critique does not give credit where credit is due and should have been a little less negative.
    I have had a number of friends (who shall remain nameless) who have successfully lived “off the grid” and still do without having the need to do anything illegal or immoral. It is possible, but without the proper knowledge and more importantly motivation, I would not recommend it.
    The best defense against constant surveillence is defiance, refusing to be intimidated and giving “them” a good middle finger salute!

  • Semiaza

    Just finished and was thoroughly absorbed and entertained from page one. Matters not that the subject matter (in the grossest sense) is an old Orwellian warning – it’s even more valid today, as the technology already exists and is being implemented all around us under an artificial climate of fear. I can think of far worse ways to bring this to the fore than an entertaining book. I look forward to the next installment.


    How is John Twelve Hawks going to spend all those dollars off the grid, I wonder

  • anjen

    This book gave me great food for thought, i dont care if John Twelve Hawks lives off the grid, lives on the grid, or lives comfortably for the rest of his life off the proceeds off this book…. its well written and has something valuable to say – unlike many of the critics dangling from the bandwagon, waiting to take potshots at anyone who has the good fortune to have mass appeal.

  • jimmy 7 hawks

    Well done! John Twelve Hawks

    You have awakened some drones who will soon
    become Travellers.

    To the Cynics:
    (Disbelieve in ‘and’ Believe in Nothing!) this leaves room for knowledge— to enter in to a darkened place, illuminating the mind, where you may find that– “once upon a time” long–long ago, you already knew. When the light of truth enters the mind all illusion disapears.

    I will never change my mind.
    But you are the only one that can.
    If I am you and you are me then who? is he and who? is she. We are all alone in our eggo head but we are all one in t h e g o d head.

    Love and Light will make us shine bright and tomorrow we might just get it right.

    Do a little thing every day that makes you or someone happy and you will be surprised at the
    things that will come to you.

    Jimmy 7 Hawks.

  • calicwboy

    I found the book to be very thought provoking. So many of the items discussed are real. The machine wants us to fingerprint and photograph our children. Submit profiles early. Question: How do we live within the grid and be an individual? The machine controls all of our actions, do we need to rise above it? Lets talk.

  • Wrinkle

    You talk about how The Traveller was written… read your own review… tip, try to be objective and use your imagination.

    Critics make me laugh, where are your novels?

  • Reader

    I have just finished the book, and loved every min of it. I found it very thought provoking, which is a wonderful quality in a book, would recommend it to everyone. Am looking forward to the next book, any idea when it out anyone?

  • Reader

    I have just finished the book, and loved every min of it. I found it very thought provoking, which is a wonderful quality in a book, would recommend it to everyone. Am looking forward to the next book, any idea when it out anyone?

  • Kip

    I got the book from my sister for my birthday, It was strange reading the revieuw in English, because I read the book in Dutch…but anyway I really really liked the book !! in the end it said that there will be more books. When are they available??? I really want to read more of his books like these !! (does anybody know??)

  • Wonderful review. I only wish I had read it before I started the book. “The last 6 words” were a slap in the face. The writer isn’t only heavy-handed, he’s both stale and dogmatic. Too often he lumps settings and events into stagnant descriptions. I would say he has a clumsy writing style, except that it’s not clumsy in that he’s like the proverbial bull in the china shop- shattering poetic oppurtunity in a focused and consistent manner. The person who insisted I read this book told me that he had a tough time putting the book down. I had a difficult time not putting it down. The story was compelling enough to help me ignore the writing at intervals. I felt the kind of betrayal Gabriel must have felt by Michael when the end of the book presented itself. I stayed awake to read this?

  • The only thing I didn’t like about the book was the way the author portrayed conservatives, as though they would probably be among the biggest proponents of The Brethren. The “Cold Dead Hands” crowd I hang with are the biggest proponents of personal freedom. ;^)

  • gary

    anyone know when the second book will be published.

  • Raul

    I will not read the next installments of this novel. The characters were boringly flat: the traveler, the protector, the bad guys… The “traveler” concept is illogical: why do humans need someone to “travel” to become inspired to grander things? Much of it can be accomplished on the 4th realm alone, which seems to be quite big and complex by itself.
    The tabula people seem idiotic in their evilness: they want a traveler to open a portal to another dimension so the superior denizens of that dimension can come to ours. Please… Why on earth would that make sense no matter how mischevious the tabula people are? Wouldn’t the tabula people be at least a bit concerned about being enslaved?
    I give this novel one hawk out of twelve.

  • Holly

    I enjoyed this book very much and am looking forward to the next installment.

    Some of the reviews on this website have described the characters as “flat” which could not be less true. It is the obligation of any reader to add something of themselves to what is on the printed page, to “see” the story in the reader’s own context. The benefit of actually reading is the opportunity to find the story “underneath” from one’s own perspective.

    The characters in “The Traveler” can be seen each and every day as we all “travel” through our own lives. In addition, and frighteningly so, many of the security/freedom issues have become a very scary reality whether we want to admit it or not.

    Again, I look forward to the next installment of “The Traveler”.

  • Dancing Leaf

    I loved this book – it did offer a lot of food for thought and challenges people to continue to look at our (multiple?) universe(s?) with an open mind.

    AND I was thrilled to see that the end of the book was not the end of the story. I’m looking forward to the next one – in fact found this webpage while looking for info on a possible release date.

  • Nancy

    I loved this book. I just purchased the CD from Ebay so that I can listen to it on the way to work. I am sure I missed something exciting because I read it soooo fast. It is very fast-paced and I’m really looking forward to reading the next “Traveler” book.

  • Mike

    I thought the book was excellent and was happy to see that there are more books to follow. Can’t wait for the next in the series…

  • Fee

    Could you or I have written a better book? I doubt it. (And I’m a published writer, also a blogger) This book is one of the best books I’ve read for years and the fact it is a series excited me rather than disappointed at the end. i really do not believe it was built on hype, a book sells becasue it is good; I bought the Traveller two years ago when I read the back cover, but no-one had heard of it and now I find people mention it to me today becasue it has worked its way into the bestseller list gradually, not through hype but plain good writing and intriguing, very relevant storylines.

  • 13 hawks

    12 Hawks points out that the government attempts to use “baseless fear tactics” to pursuade citizens to accept security measures while he uses “baseless fear tactics” to pursuade citizens that big brother is out to get them. Sorry folks, but in reality there aren’t secret societies intent on subverting governments and controlling the world. The government is just a bunch of people who go to work every day and try not to screw up in public.

    Having said that, I must admit that I enjoyed the story even though the “bad guys” seemed to have learned their trade from the screenplay of an Austin Powers movie at times.

    Bottom line: enjoy the book (and the inevitable summer movie), but don’t get caught up in all the hype!

  • Sandy (whitedove)

    Totally enjoyed the book and the charaters. It re-opened my eyes to old things and the new things that are going on out there. There always have been travelers and always will be. Time for us all to open our eyes. Glad to see a fellow skin making it good. Looking forward to the next book. I’ve given the book to my other half to read and have told the kids about it. Da Vinci Code will have run for it’s money with this story.

  • RM

    Very enjoyable read, believable and well researched. “1984” with 2006 technology, some bible references, “the mark on the forehead or right hand” from the rfid implant scar, tells of status, or enslavement by the “vast machine” depending on your viewpoint. I will be waiting for the next installment, meanwhile read Michael Crighton’s “state of fear”

  • Hier

    I’m half way through the book, and I like it.
    It shows what is going on today in the us and uk. People wake up. The technology is being created rfid, etc.

    The Traveler is interesting and fast paced.

  • indiegent

    Having just completed “The Traveler” and read the comments on this site I am forced to add my own. That some of us, generally the web-savvy, moderately well educated non Fox/CNN programmed see more truth in Twelve Hawks’ novel isn’t surprising. Comments like those by “13 Hawks
    (Wow, creative…) are. To actually accept the corporate media take on reality is nothing less than lying down and wating for the worms. I for one believe almost half of what I read on alternative websites, which is terrifying. To take at face value the McNews being force fed to the general populace is to forget the propoganda lessons of World War Two and the distraction/psyop programs conducted during the Vietnam Invasion. (Moonwalk…maybe..?)
    Twelve hawks’ writing style may be a bit amateurish by some standards, but compared to the latest offerings of Koontz, King and Chrichton (The triumverate of Terror!) I found it refreshing and fun.
    Critics criticize, but readers know best.
    I might actually buy the sequel in hardcover.

    -North Vancouver, British Columbia Canada
    (On the grid. Parents can’t disappear easily.)

  • me

    hear hear indiegent…

    The writing may have been a bit cumbersome at times, but the story gripped me and still refuses to let go. The only thing I hope is that it wasn’t written by Dan Brown (as so often suspected), laughing all the way to the bank.