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Fox nabs rights to sci-fi book series

Alex Tse to adapt John Twelve Hawks' Fourth Realm Trilogy

Fox has picked up the rights to the sci-fi book series known as the Fourth Realm Trilogy, written by reclusive author John Twelve Hawks, and has set "Watchmen" co-writer Alex Tse to adapt.

Gil Netter ("The Blind Side") and Andrew Tennenbaum ("The Bourne Identity") are producing

The first book, titled "The Traveler" and published in 2006, is set in a U.S. society run by a secret organization seeking to control the population via constant observation. Seeking to rebel against these constraints are an almost extinct group of people called Travelers, who can project their spirit into other dimensions, and their protectors, called Harlequins.

The inaugural tome centers on a reluctant Harlequin named Maya who must protect two naive Traveler brothers.

The books were best-sellers and critically well-received, with comparisons to Dan Brown, "The Matrix" and "Star Wars" used to describe a series that explores the ideas of free will and public surveillance, secret societies and good versus evil.

Helping to make the books a hit was the reclusive nature of the author. Hawks, not the person's real name, lives "off the grid," according to the series' publisher Random House, and neither his editor nor agent has ever met him. Hawks, seemingly intent on imitating some of his characters' lifestyles, communicates only via a voice scrambler and untraceable satellite phone, and during the book tour he used stand-ins.

Joe Regal is exec producing the adaptation, which at one point was set up at Universal with Kennedy/Marshall producing.

Tse has made a name for himself in the sci-fi fantasy realm. In addition to working on "Watchmen," Tse wrote an adaptation of Japanese manga classic "Ninja Scroll" for Warners and an adaptation of Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man" for Zach Snyder, also at Warners.

Tse is repped by CAA and Brillstein Entertainment Partners.