Spark, the new novel from John Twelve Hawks comes out on October 7th, 2014. Ahead of its publication, Hawks has released a free eBook called Against Authority that urges readers to take more control over the digital lives and public identities. The 94-page essay is a well-researched, well-documented look at the evolution of surveillance and privacy in the 21st century. At the time of this writing, it is only available on John Twelve Hawks website, but he does suggest in the book it will be available through other channels in the future, such as Amazon.com.
Against Authority is a scholarly look at the topics of surveillance and privacy and doesn’t, for the most part, read like the mad ramblings of a conspiracy theorist or a mental patient. Hawks provides little speculation as to where the “Surveillance States” will take their technology and instead details how they are currently using said technology. Readers are expected to draw their own conclusions about what this means for the future.
Much of the information presented in the essay is likely known by most informed people, but having it all laid out in one spot is indeed rather startling. The essay primarily covers the post 9/11 era and how fear of “terrorism” and “crime” has lead to a willingness to forgo our privacy rights in exchange for security–a trade off that Hawks argues is purely one-sided and neither improves security nor prevents crime or terrorism.
As expected, the essay ends with a call to action, but not the one reader’s may expect. Hawks isn’t advocating revolution so much as personal responsibility. He gives a few hints on how we can take more control over our public lives and urges us to do so.
Throughout the essay Hawks also reveals a few details about his own life. He’s obviously a very creative man, so these details could be entirely fictional, but sometimes even fiction reveals truth. Actually, more often than sometimes.
In the first chapter, Hawks tells an anecdotal story about being studied by scientists as a child. He mentions “growing up in the 50s” and having a stutter. He also later reveals having at least one son and one daughter. The daughter, he says, was a teenager while he was writing The Traveler, the first book in the Fourth Realm series, published in 2005.
There are other details peppered throughout the essay, but it is probably more fun for the reader to find it themselves than to have them laid out here.
As with his novels, Hawks masters brevity to create a narrative that is fast-paced and easy to follow. Everyone should read Against Authority, although they should be prepared to want to put tape over their web cam and buy a Blackphone once they do.
Against Authority is also a great primer for Hawk’s novel Spark, which I read and reviewed a few weeks ago. It lends additional credibility to the dystopian world he created.