Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- Maya has been trained since childhood to be a Harlequin, yet she chooses
to live a normal life. What aspects of her upbringing play the largest part
in her decision? In what ways does her relationship with Thorn exemplify the
conflicts any daughter might have with a strong, distant father?
- Are Thorns demands on Maya justified? Under what circumstances, if any,
do children have a responsibility to renounce their own way of life and
dedicate themselves to their parents cause? Why does Maya ultimately decide
to honor her fathers request?
- Discuss the meaning and ramifications of the Harlequin motto, "Damned by
the flesh. Saved by the blood" [p. 22/mm 23*]. What familiar moral percepts
or sayings embody the same or a similar message?
- Nathan Boone believes that he is "part of a historical battle against
the forces of disorder" [p. 26/mm 27] and that "order and discipline were
the values that kept Western civilization from falling apart" [p. 27/mm 28].
Can you cite specific periods or events in history that support this point
of view? Does an emphasis on "order and discipline" necessarily lead to
- The Traveler is set in a world very much like our own. How
accurately does the author describe the useand possible abuseof
technology? Do any of the surveillance techniques the Tabula employ seem
- The Harlequin mentality requires "no compassion, no attachments, no
mercy" [p. 72/mm 75]. Do the relationships among the Harlequins in the novel
conform to this ideal? Can any group function successfully without the
members feeling a sense of attachment to one another? Does the sharing of a
common goal, for example, adequately explain Mayas feelings about Mother
Blessing, Linden, Willow, and even the traitor, Shepherd?
- Dr. Richardson maintains, "while the priests continue to pray and the
philosophers continue to speculate, it is the neuroscientists who are
closest to answering mankinds fundamental questions"[p. 79/mm 8182]. Have
you heard about or read studies that offer convincing evidence that
scientists are on the brink of answering those questions? Has science
rendered the insights of religious thinkers and philosophers irrelevant? Can
a spiritual or philosophical approach offer an understanding of history and
human behavior that science cannot replace?
- From the central characters to the secondary figures, the characters in
The Traveler make choices about how to use their individual power. Discuss
the influence of their backgrounds, religious beliefs, and real-world
experiences on the decisions made by the following characters: Maya, Nathan
Boone, Kennard Nash, Lawrence Tawaka, Vicki Fraser. Are the Brethren
motivated purely by self-interest and the desire for control? Are Maya and
her supporters acting purely out of idealism?
- Maya recounts the "secret history of the world" to Gabriel, Vicki, and
Hollis [pp. 18586/mm 19192], identifying some of the Travelers who have
changed the course of human history. Although it is based on the conceits of
the novel, does Mayas account present a credible interpretation of the
forces that have shaped history? What makes her descriptions of Travelers
and of the Harlequins persuasive?
- In explaining the Brethrens plans for him, Kennard Nash tells Michael,
"These days people are frightened of the world around them, and that fear is
easily encouraged and maintained. People want to be in our Virtual
Panopticon. Well watch over them like good shepherds" [p. 237/mm 246]. Have
leaders, both in America and around the world, taken advantage of the fear
and uncertainty many people feel to impose their own political or religious
agendas? If so, how?
- Gabriel meets with the Pathfinder at an abandoned missile site. How does
the physical setting embody the real terrors and challenges Gabriel faces?
In what ways does it enhance the mythic themes that run through the novel?
- Sophia calls the 99 Paths, "a practical list of ideas with the same
goal: to break the Light free of your body," allowing Travelers to enter the
different "realms" or "parallel worlds" [pp. 32426/mm 33941]. Have you,
either through your religious education or independent experience,
encountered the idea that other realms exist? If so, is Sophias explanation
consistent with your previous knowledge or beliefs? Whether or not you are a
newcomer to this idea, do you find it to be a helpful or inspiring approach
- The novel touches on many contemporary issues: the fear of terrorism and
the role of the government in protecting the nation; the growing complacency
of American citizens; the misuse/abuse of technology; and scientific
contributions to improving quality of life for the individual and society as
a whole. How balanced are the points of view the author offers on each
subject? Are good and evil always clearly defined?
- The narrative point of view alternates among the characters. Which
character is the most realistically drawn? Who do you identify most closely
with and why?
- How does the plot of The Traveler follow the arc of a traditional
thriller? What does it share with other science fiction novels you have
- The Traveler is the first book in a trilogy. Which characters
would you like to learn more about in future volumes? Are there other
aspects of "the secret history of the world" that the author should explore?
Page references are provided throughout this guide for both trade
(hardcover) and mass
market (paperback) editions; the trade appears first, followed by a slash and the mass
market page reference.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Vintage.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.