Wednesday, July 4, 2007

"The Dark River"

John Twelve Hawks is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Traveler and its sequel, The Dark River.

He applied the "page 69 test" to The Dark River and reported the following:
The Dark River is a fictional vision of our world based upon real facts. I wanted to show my readers familiar settings in a completely different way. The scene on page 69 takes place in the main concourse of Grand Central Terminal, which millions of people pass through every year. When I was doing research in New York City, I happened to look upward and wonder why the zodiac painted on the ceiling was reversed.

In my new novel, the ceiling is seen through the eyes of Nathan Boone, a mercenary working for the Brethren, a powerful group of men that use the power of our computerized information systems to track and monitor the population. One of the Brethren's strongest supporters in America during the early twentieth century was William K. Vanderbilt, the railroad tycoon who had commissioned the construction of Grand Central Terminal. Vanderbilt requested that the main concourse's arched ceiling be decorated with the constellations of the zodiac, five stories above the marble floor of the station. The stars were supposed to be arranged as if they were in a Mediterranean sky during Christ's lifetime. But no one - not even the Egyptian astrologers of the first century - had ever seen such an arrangement: the zodiac on the ceiling was completely reversed.

The most popular idea as to why the stars were shown this way was that the painter had duplicated a drawing found in a medieval manuscript and that the stars were shown from the point of view of someone outside our solar system. No one ever explained why Vanderbilt's architects had allowed this odd conceit to appear in such an important building. The Brethren knew that the ceiling's design had nothing to do with a medieval concept of the heavens. The constellations were in the correct position for someone concealed inside the hollow ceiling, looking downward at travelers hurrying to their trains.

In the novel, the reversed zodiac becomes a symbol of the way we are continually watched in our contemporary society. Only a few people notice what's really going on as the rest of us hurry to our trains.
Visit the website for The Dark River, and read an excerpt and learn more about the novel at the publisher's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue