The Golden City by John Twelve Hawks
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).
This third book ties up most of the loose ends, and is as well-paced as the first. While the “good vs. evil” brother characters are predictably drawn, the other characters get more page time in this novel, and are quite enjoyable (especially Hollis). The ending has an Ayn Rand type speech (which makes you think that was the entire purpose for getting the trilogy out!) and leaves room for more books in these worlds.
Michael and Gabriel are brothers and Travelers, able to journey to the parallel worlds known as realms (loosely following the Realms from The Tibetan Book of the Dead). They are foes in a battle for world domination. Michael is taking over the Brethren’s organization, a group bent on controlling mankind through Big Brother observation and fear. His power base grows when people of another realm (the Fifth Realm, realm of the “half-gods” who have a Vast Machine of their own) contact the Brethren, asking for a visit from a Traveler, offering advanced technology for watching and monitoring the populace. He starts having the leadership of the Brethren that oppose him killed off, and decides a series of well-planned “incidents” will incite fear in the populace (a hint from the Fifth Realm folks), making the citizens more agreeable to being watched by the Vast Machine.
Gabriel is working with the Resistance (aka the people who don’t want to be monitored, want freedom, etc.), while trying to find a portal to get back to the First Realm (Hades) where his girlfriend and Harlequin protector Maya is stuck (she is not a Traveler, so he needs to find a portal to bring her back). The portal is, of course, at the top of Mount Sinai, used by other Travelers/prophets. He gets through, rescues her, does more work with the resistance, then journeys back through the realms, looking for his long lost father.
A good subplot follows the martial artist Hollis, enraged because of the murder of his girlfriend Vicki by the Brethren. At times this seems like a superfluous plot line; but Hollis’ personal journey from calm to angry to reflective to enlightened somewhat parallels the concept that all lives are meaningful, and shouldn’t be lost in the vast machine.
The final showdown, of course, comes when one of the “incidents” Michael has perpetrated gets uncovered and made public by Gabriel and the resistance, forcing a final battle between the two brothers.
As with the other books, I would have enjoyed more journeying and description of the Realms, and some past history (who else were Travelers, why can’t everyone travel?), though there is more of both in this book than the first two. But The Golden City is an enjoyable if not memorable read, though a bit preachy, overly black and white and predictable.