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The Dark River: Book Two of the Fourth Realm by John Twelve Hawks
Review by Todd M. Baker
Doubleday Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780385514293
Date: 10 July 2007 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The Dark River is the second book of the Fourth Realm Trilogy, begun by John Twelve Hawks in The Traveler, first published in 2005. In that book, the reader is introduced to a dystopian world of the fourth realm (one of six), in which the Brethren use surveillance technology in an effort to control the world. Opposing them are the travelers, who are able to move between the realms, and their Harlequin protectors.

Gabriel and Michael Corrigan learn in the first book that they are travelers, as was their long-lost father. He had raised them, though, to live "off the grid" and hence out of the reach of the Brethren. As the brothers come to understand what their power means, they come to radically different conclusions about what to do with it. Gabriel chooses to fight the Brethren; Michael chooses to join them.

The second book opens with the news that their father may be alive, but trapped somewhere in Europe. Gabriel, along with Maya, his Harlequin protector, decides to rescue him. Michael also begins to search, but with more sinister motives. The race to find their father and the implications that has for them--and for Maya--is the story of this second book in the trilogy.

John Twelve Hawks has achieved a special kind of verisimilitude with these first two books in his trilogy. Not only does his dystopian world bear frightening similarities to our own world, his descriptions of places like New York, London, Rome, and Berlin resonate with anyone who has ever traveled there. Indeed, in a note to the reader (which I quote in full), he states:

The Dark River is a work of fiction inspired by the real world.

An adventurous reader can touch the sundial hidden beneath the streets of Rome, travel to Ethiopia and stand outside the holy sanctuary in Axum, or walk through Grand Central Terminal in New York and look up at the mystery on the concourse ceiling.

The aspects of the Vast Machine described in the novel are also real or under development. In the near future, both private and governmental total information systems will monitor every aspect of our lives. A central computer will remember where we go and what we buy, the email we write and the books we read.

Each attack on privacy is justified by the pervasive culture of fear that seems to surround us and grow stronger every day. The ultimate consequences of that fear are expressed in my vision of the First Realm. Its darkness will exist forever and it will be opposed--forever--by compassion, bravery, and love.

I do not often interject personal comments into reviews, but this note haunts me. Mere days before writing this review, I had been standing in New York's Grand Central Terminal contemplating the concourse ceiling, and now as I write, news outlets await photos from the recent bombing attempt in London from those ubiquitous cameras. I both appreciate the mystery—and know the fear. Anyone who has even a limited knowledge of the world in which we live, and the symbols we use in an attempt to describe it, will appreciate this trilogy.

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