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Realm of Disappointed Yawns September 12, 2007

Posted by sensawunda in Books, Hall of Shame, Not Sensawunda.

In his novel The Traveler, John Twelve Hawks draws upon the very archetypes of wonder—and renders them banal.

To be fair, I had better disclose that I consumed this novel as an abridged audiobook. It’s possible that the abridgement process stripped out the beauty. It did remind me of The DaVinci Code, which I also listened to in abridged form.

Except John Twelve Hawks’s Wikipedia entry mentions that, because he’s such a recluse, people have speculated that he’s just a pen name for a known author—and Dan Brown was listed as a possibility. Twelve Hawks has specifically denied being Dan Brown. But this does suggest to me that the resemblance isn’t just an artifact of abridgment.

John Twelve Hawks seems to be a conspiracy-theory aficionado, so here’s my conspiracy theory: I think there’s a conspiracy among publishers who hawk [get it???] bestsellers. They’re taking the classic sources of sensawunda such as mythology, spirituality, and mysticism, and sucking them completely dry of all wonder and even interest (beyond the synthetic rhythm of formula suspense).

THAT is why his book reminded me of The DaVinci Code.

They both attempt to provide rational explanations for the transcendant. And the sad thing is, I think they both think they are adding wonder to the ancient traditions, with their tales of secret societies and centuries of war waged under the very noses of unsuspecting Muggles (oops, wrong genre).

Twelve Hawks makes a big deal of living “off the Grid,” as if he really believes in the Matrix (which he calls the Vast Machine—he even managed to make that banal). I can’t help wondering how far off the Grid he really is if he’s able to tap into the trend started by Dan Brown, but that’s neither here nor there. Again, it seems to be another attempt on his part to add sensawunda. But he only succeeds in making himself look like a Howard Hughes with no sense of style.



1. mayaharlequin - July 29, 2009

If anything, I would say The Traveler is more like a modern day 1984 than The DaVinci Code.

Reading or listening to the abridged version of anything…you never get a real feeling for the it. Does listening to a 30 second clip of a symphony mean that you can review the whole thing?

As for the conspiracy among publishers who hawk bestsellers, this book could have made millions. Instead, Twelve Hawks refused any kind of publicity. To me, that means that he was writing to write, not to be recognized. I read this book, found out about Twelve Hawks and the way that he is, and I was impressed. I felt like I had finally encountered a writer, not some heavily publicized, overrated, media whore looking for a movie contract.

The ‘trend started by Dan Brown’ ? Conspiracy theories? Religion and technology butting heads? Society trying to lull everyone into complacence? These themes have been a constant in literature. Shelley’s Frankenstein, Camus’ The Stranger, Orwell’s 1984, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis…All dealt with society vs. religion vs. technology. All dealt with ‘right’ as it was defined by the times.

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