Book Review: The Traveller: Book One of the Fourth Realm Trilogy by John Twelve Hawks
A few years back I picked up John Twelve Hawks Fourth Realm Trilogy and misconstrued its overall theme and put it down (for whatever reason?). Not having connection to my library (being packed up in the move) I found a copy of his first book in a friend’s home and borrowed it for a little light fare at night. I wish now I’d of read this work years ago, for Hawks’ – whether that is his real or appellate name – is a good story teller and the work as a foray into urban fantasy works.
Hawks is able to weave a tale around a world in which most of what we take for granted is not as it seems – and, yet, he doesn’t just copy the usual paranoid conspiracy crowd, but rather transforms his critical apparatus to shape a narrative around a world in which Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon has become ubiquitous due to our electronic age.
It’s a tale in which there is a secret history of the world in which humans (as in most conspiracy thought) are pawns, sleepers divided into subnormals or drones (criminal elements, poor, excluded, etc.) and normals or citizens (the basic consumer world of late capitalism). Along with this are three groups of hidden agents and their enemies that play our a dramatic history of freedom and fate over the lives of all others on the planet.
The first group is the Travelers: humans who have been gifted with the ability (much like Shamans, Mystics, Sufi, Hindu, Shivaite, or any number of magical, occult, new age astral thought…) to concentrate their psychic energy (astral body) into light and through trance travel into other realms, other worlds. There seems to be four barriers of based on the elements that must be overcome for the traveler to enter into actual other worlds: air, fire, water, earth. Each with certain obstacles to overcome, etc. The Traveler can apparently take a talisman with them (as in the novel the twin brothers who become enemies have Japanese katana’s as Talisman’s).
The second group are Harlequin’s who have since at least the rise of the Knight’s Templar’s protected the Travelers. The Harlequin’s much like the Japanese ninja’s are adept in various martial arts and magical techniques, gymnastics, strategies, and multivalent in weapons, secrecy, anonymity.
The third group is the Pathfinder’s who are those that have the ability to awaken the Traveler’s through 99 special techniques that have been collected in a special book past on from master to pupil.
What was interesting in the first book is Hawk’s ability to make not only the character driven story of interest, but his ability to drive it forward and create an intriguing cast of characters that are not just the typical pasteboard stand in’s but actual full fledged creatures one can empathize with. Very few writers of thrillers have that ability. Most novels are boring and predictable and the characters never become real on the page. Another aspect is that Hawks though didactic in intent doesn’t beat you over the head with polemical statements, but instead allows the story to unfold the message in natural terms and at appropriate times.
The story itself is based around a young woman, Maya, and her struggle with and against the legacy of being a Harlequin. Raised up by her father, Thorn, a man who spent his life in the service of protecting Travelers was recently crippled in an incident involving an ambush set up by a secret group named the Brethren who have for centuries sought out both Traveler and Harlequin and Pathfinder alike with one goal: to murder them and instigate a world wide order of control over the unknowing sleepers: citizens and drones.
For Maya the struggle began as a young girl in her teens during a specific trial in which her father leads her into an ambush with a group of Brethren forcing her to fight or die. She has been trained by him in all the deadly arts of combat and perception and makes quick work of her assailants, but in so doing is disgusted by what she’s become and abandons both her father and the life of the Harlequin for years. Barely keeping in touch with her father she’s led a life of a citizen as best she could during the intervening years until she is summoned to meet with him in Prague.
She comes to Prague and rejects Thorn’s proposal that she take up her rightful place in the Harlequin world, go to America and defend two brothers who have recently emerged from the underground and find and protect them before the Brethren do. But even as she leaves the building returning to her hotel she discovers that things are amiss, something is not right and returns to her father’s hideout to find him and his new student have been murdered. Not only that murdered by that he has been killed by a genetic monstrosity unleashed by the Brethren and their emissary Nathan Boone, head of security using “splicers” or hyena’s that have been genetically altered to feel no pain, and to have one goal – hunger for flesh and blood.
Needless to say this awakens in Maya a deep seated hatred of the Brethren to the point that all she wants now is revenge on those who did this to her father… the rest of the story you will want to read to find out more.
The story is fast paced and has some interesting plot twists and turns, a thriller that will keep you turning the pages as well as in depth characters who make the world feasible. All in all I found the book a delight and instructive, a fable about our prison planet and the corporatocracy of global capitalism and the Deep State of rogue organizations, power, and money that unhinged criminal cartels seem to pervade our failing democracies as we enter a period of authoritarian rule and strong media fictions that cover our world in stagecraft rather real news. A world where those in power work against democracy and shape a vision of world order in which the few rather than the many have the power and control and seek total dominion over every aspect of our existence. A Total Surveillance Society based on human security, lies, and deceit.
Once you accept our inherent ability to say no, you begin to see history in a different way. History isn’t a chronicle of the lives of kings, or their modern equivalents. It’s the story of a continual war between the people and institutions that have power and that core group in each new generation that decides, “I don’t accept your right to that power, your authority.” And this isn’t just a political and social rebellion. The conflict includes those people who challenge the status quo in science, technology, literature, and art.1
As Eric Jensen said a few years back the voices tell you that those in power have your best interests at heart. The micro-chips (RFID’s, etc.) are to reduce theft, the cameras to increase security, and the MRIs, well, if you have nothing to hide, what are you afraid of? A world where everything you own is chipped: mobile phones, refrigerators, sports shoes, etc. all the consumer goods surrounding you connected to ubiquitous receivers at the local market, the airport, the downtown total surveillance network, etc. A world completely constructed as they say to protect you and your children. A world that will soon track every aspect of your daily life from waking to sleep, scanning your clothes which will have these dust mite chips embedded, and the medical info chip you hang round your neck or wrist. In a generation your children will grow up knowing no other way, knowing nothing of a world without chips and scans and surveillance.
Even the thoughts in you head may come not from some unconscious process but rather from a machinic system. As Jense says: “Another article, written not so long ago, began with the unforgettable first line: “Those voices in your head may be real.” It went on to say that scientists have been able to develop the rapacity to project a beam of sound so focused that only one person can hear it. It can be transmitted from hundreds of yards away. The military is of course extremely interested in this technology. Microwaves can also be used to transmit sound. Pulses can be beamed into your head, such that you might think that you’re hearing them, or even thinking them. These pulses could be shaped into words, into thoughts. 2
Jeremy Benthem once proposed the infamous Panopticon which was never built, but the notion of a total surveillance society began with his blueprint. In it he foresaw a way of infusing the whole of society with such a mind over mind apparatus for “punishing the incorrigible, guarding the insane, reforming the “vicious, confining the suspected, employing the idle, maintaining the helpless, curing the sick, instructing the willing in any branch of industry, or training the rising race in the path of education: in a Word, whether it be applied to the purposes of perpetual prisons in the room of death, or prisons for confinement before trial, or penitentiary-houses. or houses of correction, or work-houses. or manufactories, or mad-houses, or hospitals, or schools. ” (Jensen, p. 9)
The point here is to make the whole planet into an open prison in which the inmates would be jailor and jailed one and all. Just the notion that you cannot hide, that you have no privacy, that your life 24/7 is under the scrutiny of machines, AI’s that can monitor, track, modulate, and filter every piece of data and information about you and your actions, your desires, wants, needs. All this would allow the prisoner to mind his own life without the need for any other external agent other than his own fear of the System. “Hence,” as Michel Foucault wrote, “the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility I hat assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the inmates should he caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers. To achieve this, it is at once too much and too little that the prisoner should be constantly observed by an inspector: too little, for what matters is that he knows himself to be observed; too much, because he has no need in fact of being so. In view of this, Bentham laid down the principle that power should he visible and unverifiable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at anyone moment; but he must he sure that he may always he so. In order to make the presence or absence of the inspector unverifiable, so that the prisoners, in their cells, cannot even see a shadow, Bentham envisaged not only venetian blinds on the windows of the central observation hall, but, on the inside, partitions that intersected the hall at right angles and, in order to pass from one quarter to the other, not doors but zig-zag openings; for the slightest noise, a gleam of light, a brightness in a half-opened door would betray the presence of the guardian. The Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen.”3
Yet, unlike the literal Panopticon proposed by Benthem the new ubiquitous and invisible Panopticon is a Tower of Electronic surveillance hidden in every object of our capitalist society with all its smart devices from toaster ovens to automobiles, ticket stations to ATM’s. And someday the corporations will engage their employees to embedded such health chips with one’s life history into a small under the skin adaptor that can be read by any and all machines connected to the Surveillance State. Of course we scoff at such things now, saying our civil liberties will always be protected, yada yada ya…. but will it? Will a generation of two down the pipe remember such things? Will they due to terror, war, insecurity, etc. be willing to sacrifice privacy for protection? Will they?
What John Twelve Hawk’s does well in his fable of our modern surveillance society is to underpin the corruption of the Deep State, this rogue world of secrecy, surveillance, black ops, the collusion of corporate and government as its seek total command and control of the populace, along with the exclusion and extrication of any thought-freedom and powers of mind that could awaken people from their sleep in capital, luxury, and erotic wish fulfillment. Even the point of keeping democracy on the edge of oblivion, the charade of politics and stupid leaders, the monetary crisis, the wars, the terror, the all-pervading sense of fear and apathy, all this destruction of the modern world is part of the plan to keep us locked into a need for protection, security, and enslavement to the System.
- Twelve Hawks, John. Against Authority: Freedom and the Rise of the Surveillance States (Kindle Locations 186-189). 22 West 26th Street Press. Kindle Edition.
- Jensen, Eric. Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control. Chelsea Green Publishing; First Edition edition (September 15, 2004)
- Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Vintage; 2nd edition (April 18, 2012)