Thursday, November 05, 2009

A review of "The Golden City: A Novel"

by John Twelve Hawks

This review contains spoilers, so don’t read on if you want to be completely surprised by everything that happens in The Golden City.

Way back in January, I reviewed The Dark River, the second book in a paranoid fantasy thriller series written by the mysterious author, John Twelve Hawks. Out of nowhere, several weeks ago, someone posted a comment in response to the review. The comment was from the author’s literary agency. I was offered a free copy of the third book in the series, The Golden City.

Wow! Being offered free goodies just for posting a review seemed too good to be true, and I wondered if it was a weird form of comment spam (or perhaps a ruse by the Tabula to get their clutches into me). However, it turned out to be genuine. I received a shiny new hard cover copy of The Golden City a few weeks ago. (Hopefully, writing about this clears me with the FTC.)

It took me a while to get started on the book, but once I did, I zipped through it in just a few days. This last book is consistently good, although it suffers from a few flaws, just as the first two books did.

Again, the MacGuffin – the threat of a Big Brother coming to control our lives – fails to inspire me with fear. The Big Brother organization here, the Tabula, would be fairly benign if all they did was spy on you all the time. But they don’t just do that – they also seem to be intent on killing the people who might expose them. This, it seems, is where the real danger lies – the fact that they’re an organization which thinks it’s OK to kill people to advance their cause. And since there are plenty of other organizations/people which are out to get you (terrorists, your average serial killer, and so on), I don’t see why the Tabula is touted as the greatest possible threat to all of mankind.

The entirety of Chapter 42 is a defense of the premise that the loss of privacy is the gravest possible threat, but reading it didn’t convince me. And I’m a pretty paranoid person! It seems to me that loss of privacy has its ups and downs, and humanity will learn to cope. Seriously, which is worse, the government snooping through your underwear drawer, or terrorists pointing your airplane at a skyscraper? Let’s face it, marketing agencies already know way more about us than we’d like – but does that alter our quality of life significantly?

Well, I already knew this was an issue from reading the two earlier books, and I was along for the ride. This book is just as fun as the first two, so if you enjoyed them, I think you will enjoy this one, as I did. If you enjoyed the Alias TV series, with its kickass strong female lead and its mish-mash of science fiction/fantasy paranoia, you'll probably like this trilogy.

I don’t want to reveal too much, but here comes a spoiler: I have to mention that Maya’s pregnancy was way too jarring – one minute, she’s being rescued by Gabriel, the next she’s preggers, with nary a mention of hand-holding in between, let alone shagging. At least a few shy kisses were in order to prepare the reader.

One more thing: the series is described as a trilogy, but the book is open-ended enough that there could be another sequel. I’d be happy to read more, but I’m also happy with the trilogy as it is. Good entertainment value! If John Twelve Hawks writes anything else, I’ll definitely take a look.

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