Traveler Author:John Twelve Hawks The book is about an alternative contemporary reality, laced with magic and fantasy, one in which the U.S. is part of a society overseen by a secret organization, known as "The Brethren". The Brethren want to enforce a Virtual Panopticon, and thus create a perfectly controlled population. This Virtual Panopticon is made possible through the use ... more »of surveillance cameras, centralized databases, the urge to use RFID-like tags for each citizen, and assorted spy gear (heat sensors, infrared cameras, X-rays, etc. ..).
The opposition to The Brethren comes in two forms: small pockets of people who have decided to live "off the grid" in various ways and the Harlequins.
The Harlequins, now numbering only a handful of people, are a group of fighters sworn to defend the Travellers. A Traveller is a person who is able to break the light free from his body and travel through the barriers to the other realms.
Although the basic plot is not new, the author provides a setting for discussion of larger issues, such as free will, the rapid increase in public surveillance and information gathering, a so-called culture of fear, the nature of good and evil, etc.
The underlying premise for the world in which this book is set greatly resembles the cosmology of Tibetan Buddhism (and other eastern cosmologies). Most notably, the second realm is explicitly labeled the realm of the Hungry Ghosts. But, each realm in the enumerated hierarchy is associated with a given human shortcoming, much like in Hinduism and Buddhism. One gets the impression that the Travelers are intended to bring the boon of their multi-realm knowledge back to the inhabitants of the fourth realm to aid them in break from their own samsaric cycles.
The author has written a post-script at the end of the book in which he talks about his reasons for writing the novel and discusses, among other things, the development in western countries regarding surveillance (such as CCTV), data-mining, RFID and GPS, the Information Awareness Office, etc.
It is the first volume in a projected trilogy titled The Fourth Realm.
The second volume in the projected trilogy is titled The Dark River. It is the continued story of the first book and has the same style of writing.« less