The freedom-hating Vast Machine is at it again in this second libertarian-minded thriller from Twelve Hawks.
The Traveler (2005) put forth a fairly standard hypothesis: The world is controlled by a massive, interlocking conspiracy labeled the Vast Machine, which has been fought throughout the millennia by interdimensional travelers known as Travelers. (The author goes for prosaic, no-frills names.) This sequel, the middle volume in a planned trilogy, starts off with a bang as Vast Machine mercenaries wipe out a peaceful community of off-the-grid freethinkers, but it provides few thrills or chills after that. Traveler Gabriel is hiding out with Maya, member the Harlequins, an ancient band of warriors sworn to defend Travelers. They’re trying to find out what happened to Gabriel’s missing father, spurred by the knowledge that Gabriel’s brother Michael, who’s joined the Vast Machine, is also hunting for him. A few decent action scenes ensue, but the narrative is too diffuse and muddled to create any sense of urgency. Composed of the usual suspects (heads of government, military and industry), the Vast Machine employs new surveillance technologies to curb humanity’s freedom, but the author never makes clear precisely how the Travelers and their companions are supposed to combat it. Twelve Hawks’ bad habits include indulging in lengthy excursions to poorly elucidated multiple dimensions and delivering multiple lectures à la Crichton. He does, however, deliver one really good line: “If privacy had a gravestone it might read: ‘Don’t Worry. This Was For Your Own Good.’ ”