The Golden City is the final book in the Fourth Realm Trilogy by John Twelve Hawks. The first book in the trilogy, The Traveler, really blew me away. It’s about Travelers who have the ability to leave their physical bodies and travel to different realms to achieve enlightenment. Their origins can be traced back for centuries and it’s claimed that most of the prophets throughout history were actually Travelers. Harlequins are trained fighters and the sworn protectors of the Travelers. Their enemy is the Tabula (also called the Brethren) who want to control mankind and view spiritual enlightenment as a threat. They control society via a panopticon, a prison where the prisoners are unable to see their guards – giving the impression that they are always under observation. They do this virtually by using the Vast Machine, a network of surveillance cameras, computers, and RFID chips implanted in people’s hands. It’s very Orwellian but it’s set in our contemporary, post-9/11 world. In a disturbingly familiar parallel, the Tabula use the threat of terrorism to justify the extensive surveillance.
In The Traveler, we found out that brothers Michael and Gabriel Corrigan are the only two Travelers left. As they became aware of their true identities, they each handled this new awareness in different ways. Michael wants to use his ability to become wealthy and powerful, while Gabriel is more altruistic. Also factoring heavily into the story is Maya, a lethal Harlequin fighter who protects Gabriel.
The Golden City picks up where The Dark River left off – Maya rescued Gabriel from the hellish first realm only to become trapped there herself. Meanwhile the epic battle between the Travelers/Harlequins and the Tabula is about to come to a head. Michael continues to work for the Evergreen Foundation and also travels to the fifth realm, which is the land of the demigods. Familiar characters like Hollis Wilson, Alice Chen, and Nathan Boone also return.
The thing I really like about the books is that they make you think and notice things in the world around you. The traffic cameras at stoplights and all those shopping reward cards that track your purchases suddenly seem more ominous. Earlier this year my grocery store receipt informed me that I had previously purchased a recalled peanut butter product. The realization that records of all my purchases are sitting in a database somewhere was chilling and all I could think about was that the Vast Machine is watching me. Hawks has really made me think about how much personal privacy I’m willing to give up for the sake of security (or grocery store coupons, as the case may be).
I enjoyed The Golden City but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. The trilogy got off to such a great start but I feel like the subsequent books never managed to recapture the excitement of The Traveler. That tends to happen with series, they often start stronger than they finish. Certain long-awaited events happened, but without the emotional punch that I was expecting. Overall, I think fans of the series will enjoy the final installment, even if they are not totally satisfied. Newcomers should definitely start at the beginning of the trilogy.
John Twelve Hawks is a pseudonym and the author’s true identity is unknown. All that is really known about him is that he lives “off the grid” and communicates with his publisher via satellite phone. Yeah, I’m not buying that and I don’t think anyone else is either. One popular theory is that he’s actually a moonlighting well-known author like Dan Brown or Michael Cunningham. The mystery surrounding his identity is rather gimmicky, but, whoever he is, I like his ideas and I look forward to future novels.
Publisher: Doubleday | Pages: 368 | Buy on Amazon