Today, we’re celebrating the upcoming September 7 release of Unfettered Journey, a debut novel by Gary Bengier. Check out the book below and read on for a short interview with the author.
ABOUT THE BOOK
“I want to know the truth.
I want to know how and why.”
Joe Denkensmith, Level 42, vidsnap: Year 2161
Set in a richly envisioned future world, Unfettered Journey is the story of an AI scientist who seeks to create robot consciousness and discovers the resilience of the human spirit. He travels to a small college to progress his quest, but instead finds love, a secret plot by unjust forces, and the answers to his fundamental questions — the nature of the conscious mind and free will.
This book is a profound, many-layered journey. It is a love story and an adventure. It traces struggle and resilience in an imperfect world. It is a deep philosophical exploration, resetting the conversation at the intersection of science and religion, challenging you to begin your own journey to a purposeful life.
What was your primary inspiration for this book? The original “what if” moment?
Remember “42” from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? That is the answer to the question about the so-called Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything (posed by aliens who created a supercomputer, that churned for 10 million years). Yes, it is a cornball joke. But I’ve been fascinated by the big questions, and trying to find those answers inspired me to write Unfettered Journey—to share that journey with others. That is why after a full career focused on daily living, I went back to earn a master’s in philosophy. (Spoiler alert—that may be why my main character, Joe, is a “Level 42.”) We want to answer those big questions, to find meaning and purpose in our lives.
What future technology featured in your book do you wish already existed for you (and the rest of us) to use?
This is a hard-science future, and the envisioned technologies are devices that I think are highly likely to be developed. I’ll mention three. First is a MEDFLOW, a device implanted below the skin above the right hip, that automatically supplies dosages of various medications—slim drip for weight control, gene therapies based on the person’s DNA analysis, anti-aging chemicals, even caffeine micro-dosed twice each day. Everyone is slim and healthy, and the average lifespan is over 120.
The second is a NEST—a Neural-to-External Systems Transmitter, residing in a chip embedded in a person’s head, that connects to a future version of the Cloud. A NEST may be supplemented with a PIDA—a Personal Intelligent Digital Assistant. For the PIDA, think of Siri on steroids, an AI that resides in the chip in your head, waiting to respond to every request. Do we really want to have that AI in our head, looking over our shoulder? That question is addressed by Joe, the main character, on page one.
Did any particular philosopher significantly contribute to your thoughts when writing this novel?
The philosopher of mind, Jaegwon Kim, posed some intractable questions about mental causation—in a closed physical universe, that is supported by current scientific evidence, how can our minds cause anything? That question, and the related question of “What is our mind, really?” animate the protagonist in his search for answers.
What are you working on now? Any special projects for us to look forward to in the future?
My main project is working on a birth—the birth of Unfettered Journey, which shall soon face the world. Speaking of births, let’s see if it is as difficult as the birthing scene in the novel. (That’s a hint for all those who know better than I what that experience is like. So far, many who have read the scene tell me that it is accurate.)
If they made a movie about your book, who would you love to cast as the two main characters?
Since the novel is told entirely from the viewpoint of the protagonist, Joe, we never see him except from inside. I guess then we can think of Joe as any man, as all of us. But maybe everyone should focus on my main female protagonist. And there, let’s think about the most kick-ass heroines. For #WomensEqualityDay, on Goodreads Listopia I started the list Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books with Kick Ass Female Protagonist. Now just name your favorite female movie actor who can play a kick-ass part, and that is my movie lead.
And finally, leave us with a short excerpt to show readers why they should check out Unfettered Journey!
A mass of people, many more than he had seen from the autohover on his arrival, stood in the plaza in front of the student center. The details of the scene became clearer as he got closer. Full-body black clothing, including hoods and goggles, disallowed identification by his ARMO. Joe focused on a figure and captured a vidsnap with his NEST.
“Material.” The NEST responded to his thought with, “Hydrophilic thermoplastic elastomer, Kevlar blend.”
. . .
Odd clothing choice for a student. A fashion trend I missed?
. . .
Flames of light patterns descended one body, then another, cueing the eruption of a raucous chant. The clothing must incorporate an LED layer. The sound hit him like a wave. “Lose the Levels!” The crowd chanted together, growing louder and waving fists. Moving letters wrote the message across their bodies as the chorus crested in volume. The letters pulsed and flowed in primary colors, leaping like fire.
“End the Acts!” The new demand rippled in synchronized red, white, and blue. “Out with the oligarchs. In with equality!” Voice changers disguised the real voices behind their strident incantations. A drone floated motionless near the plaza, most certainly sending the stream to netchat.
Joe stood transfixed, along with other onlookers, at the edge of the plaza. One nearby protester caught his eye—a woman, agile and athletic with long legs, her curves flowing like mercury poured into the skintight material. Blue goggles concealed her eyes, and she moved with the chant as colors played across her body. She was an ethereal dragonfly—beautiful, mysterious—but he sensed there was nothing delicate about her. His trance was broken by a loud hum. Three hovercraft appeared overhead. Searchlights blazed down on the protesters and a disembodied voice boomed, “This is an illegal protest. Vacate the area immediately or you will be arrested.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gary F. Bengier is a writer, philosopher, and technologist.
After a career in Silicon Valley, Gary pursued passion projects, studying astrophysics and philosophy. He’s spent the last two decades thinking about how to live a balanced, meaningful life in a rapidly evolving technological world. This self-reflective journey infuses his novel with insights about our future and the challenges we will face in finding purpose.
Before turning to writing speculative fiction, Gary worked in a variety of Silicon Valley tech companies. He was eBay’s Chief Financial Officer, and led the company’s initial and secondary public offerings. Gary has an MBA from Harvard Business School, and an MA in philosophy from San Francisco State University. He has two children with Cynthia, his wife of forty-three years. When not traveling the world, he raises bees and makes a nice Cabernet at the family’s Napa vineyard. He and his family live in San Francisco.