In his “The Traveler” trilogy, author John Twelve Hawks introduced us to a truly dystopian world in which the Orwellian “big brother” predictions are alive and well in the big city. With his latest novel, Spark, the author presents another, more disturbing side of the themes he explored in The Traveler series.
In Spark, we meet Jacob Underwood, a contract killer who, following a serious brain injury, suffers from Cotard’s Syndrome, a (genuine) form of mental illness in which the afflicted person believes he or she is dead. Jacob’s injury has totally changed his life; he needs a highly structured, uncluttered environment, and he needs to learn how to simulate all of the forms of human behavior that used to come naturally to him. But his new assignment, which involves locating (and then possibly killing) a missing woman, soon leads him into situations that are exceedingly disorganized and full of human emotion (which, as a “dead” man, he no longer experiences or understands). As Jacob takes on the most challenging assignment of his career, he begins to undergo a personal transformation in his outlook on the world. And while Jacob begins to question the merits of his amoral belief system and what this means for completion of his assignments, Hawks has the perfect forum to air his views on metaphysical questions, the surveillance state in which the story is set, and what it really means to be human.
John Twelve Hawks has taken well-trodden material and made it fresh and surprisingly disturbing and frightening. His command of language and stark imagery adds so much to the story. This is one author that I highly recommend.