bookrev: The Dark River by John Twelve Hawks

Tried really, really hard to love it, almost succeeded…maybe my expectations were too high from The Traveler

Please note that the copy of this novel reviewed is an “Advanced Reading Copy” that I received at Book Expo America June 1st. The book cover also states that the book will
officially be on sale July 10, 2007.

I enjoyed The Traveler, John Twelve Hawks first novel, because it possessed many elements that I enjoyed; these are not new ideas, but combining them together is somewhat unique. I had very high expectations for The Dark River by John Twelve Hawks (or someone like him since apparently no one knows who he really is) as it had many of these same pieces:

  • The concept is very “V for Vendetta” and 1984ish, pitting individuals vs. the “Vast Machine”, control vs. individualism, a culture of fear vs. a culture of liberty;
  • it depicts a age old conflict between two opposite belief systems;
  • it features a group of cold calculating martial arts-trained individuals called Harlequins (also the name of a Dallas Rugby club!);
  • it includes the idea of “realms”, of parallel universes that certain individuals (Travellers and others) can get to (there are Six Realms; our reality is the Fourth Realm, and it appears that Hell or something like it is the First Realm);
  • I liked the different off the grid groups, like New Harmony in the first novel and the Free Runners in this 2nd novel (no spoilers, read the book to see what I mean);
  • it is well-paced, something that as an author I know is difficult to do.

This second of a described “Trilogy” (see my list of peeves below) picks up where the first
novel “The Traveler” left of. Gabriel and Michael Corrigan, brothers, have chosen two
opposing sides in the conflict; Michael has chosen the side of the Brethren, who want to
place controls and monitoring on the world, and who heretofor have been dedicated to wiping out Travellers; Gabriel is being hunted by the Brethren and is protected by Maya, one of the Harlequins. They both learn that their long lost father is alive and is also a
Traveler. The majority of the novel is their search for their father, Michael’s desire and
efforts to be accepted and ultimately control the Brethren, and the budding romance between Maya (who is a Harlequin but not sure if she wants to be one) and Gabriel.

I read The Traveler, and considered it a good summer read. The surprise at the end that it was the first of a series of books planned (the cover page of this second one denotes it as a trilogy) was a….well…a surprise. I wasn’t thrilled with the way a quantum computer was depicted in the first book, but that’s okay, it’s scifi, right?

The second book (or any sequel) is always difficult to write: you’ve already enthralled the reader with new concepts and great characters in the first book, so the second book has to not only progress the story towards it’s natural conclusion, but it has to be able to stand on its own.

And this is my main issue with The Dark River. If it were tacked onto the end of The Traveler (or onto the beginning of the next book) it would be a great intro or ending. But it has too many events that were not big picture (unless they relate to the next book), too many events that were hard to believe, and doesn’t move along some of the main key elements in the book (readers beware: some slight spoilers):

  • Not enough of the plot is in or about the Six Realms; isn’t this what makes Travelers different, the ability to move through the Realms?
  • Michael is kidnapped by the Brethren, and proceeds to worm his way into their leadership; the Brethren have for hundreds of years been dead set on finding and killing all Travelers. I wasn’t convinced that Michael did anything special to make them change this philosophy, but they do;
  • The second book leaves a large cliff hanger, so it sets up the next book, but it’s a predictable cliff hanger;
  • There is so much story left (IMHO) that third book is going to need to be 2,000 pages long;
  • There are some accuracy issues (p. 171, Statue of Liberty is not on Ellis Island) but I assume this will get cleaned up before the release date (mine was an ARC).

I continue to enjoy the individuals vs. the Vast Machine concept in this 2nd book, and I do enjoy the writing style. This is a good continuation of a great first story, but did not live up to the high bar that was set with The Traveler.

Awaiting the third book for the Fourth Realm (kinda goes along with waiting for the third movie of the Fantastic Four?) and also wondering if Twelve Hawks is American Indian (or Native American depending on which side of the PC line you’re on) and what tribe (Choctaw for me!).

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5 Responses

  1. larry says:

    My friends over at SF Signal have recently reviewed the first book in this series, The Traveler. You can find their review here.

  2. Paul says:

    Have not had a chance to read this book yet. enjoyed the first book The Traveler and have been awaiting it to hit the stores so I could read the second one to see if it was a good as the first one

  3. Chris says:

    Jeez – get a life. Its a good story and a good plot. Its a fictional book for gods sake. Critics are not required in this world – please go to the sixth realm. The only thing critics do is criticise not enjoy.

  1. January 17, 2010

    […] The Golden City is the final book in an ambitious trilogy by John Twelve Hawks, mixing a Orwellian 1984 big brother “Vast Machine”, the many worlds theory, quantum computing and martial arts. Sounds right up my alley, right? The first novel in the series, The Traveler, was enjoyable, well-paced, an excellent setup; the second, The Dark River, not so much (my notes). […]

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