Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Golden City

The Golden City (Fourth Realm, #3) The Golden City by John Twelve Hawks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the 3rd book in the 'Fourth Realm Trilogy'. The trilogy is about 'the vast machine' of personal electronic data, collected by everything we do these days, and the problems of privacy and security that can arise if 'the wrong people' get control of this information. But it's told in a bit of a science-fictiony/fantasy mode, in that there are certain people (Travelers) who, throughout history, have been the ones to move humanity forward and speak up for peace and justice (think Da Vinci or Gandhi). These travelers have the ability to leave this 'realm' and travel to other realms (alternate reality). In addition to the travelers, there are normal humans who have sworn to protect the travelers - these are the Harlequins. (Think ninja assassins crossed with James Bond)

The premise of the trilogy is that there is a secret group (*sigh*, isn't there always??) called The Brethren, trying to use the Vast Machine to create the perfect society, where everyone is controlled. Their goal is very 1984/Brave New World/Fahrenheit 451-ish. They manage to get a 'bad' traveler to help them. He travels to one of the other realms and brings back designs for ever-increasingly complex and powerful computers, which they use to increase their ability to track everyone. Meanwhile, there is a 'good' traveler (brother to the 'bad' one), several Harlequins and a motley crew of 'off-the-grid' types are attempting to stop Brethren and their nefarious plans.

I was drawn to the trilogy by its first book (The Traveler), in which one of the main protagonists is a female Harlequin named Maya. (Did I mention Harelquins carry swords?? :-) And I was also drawn by the fact that the author's real name is not John Twelve Hawks, and that no one has seen him and that he lives completely off-the-grid. The first book was very exciting, as we see the reality of the omnipresent Vast Machine and learn of those fighting against it. Lots of good action!

However, the last 2 books of the trilogy are less gripping, though this 3rd one is a bit better than the 2nd. In the 2nd & 3rd books we spend a lot of time mucking about in the other realms (one of which is Hell), and there's really not a lot done to move the plot forward. I got the impression that the author had this "cool" idea about other realms and people who go there, and wanted to work this into the books. Because, personally, I think the series would have been much more effective without the mystical mumbo-jumbo. The issues of electronic privacy, surveillance, security, etc are very real, and don't need to be 'spiced' up with this un-real stuff. And, I'm getting very tired of all of these hidden societies trying to run the world (Illuminati, etc). This is trite, and, truth be told, takes away from the real threat of electronic privacy issues. I think it's way scarier to think that we are giving away our privacy in the name of 'security', not because some secret society is trying to take over the world, but because we're not willing to get out of our comfortable, consumerist world and open our eyes, so we let well-meaning governments whittle away at our privacy. THAT is scary - because it's REAL. Bringing in the whole secret society thing just makes the real issue seem fictional.

Now, this is not to say I didn't enjoy the books. But I really think they could have been better. And, I have to say that unless you really like all the mystical other realm stuff, and the secret-society-plotting-to-take-over-the-world stuff, just read the first book. You don't get anything else new from the subsequent books. But, for sure, Maya kicks a$$! :-)

No comments: