Some have said Unfettered Journey is “The Hunger Games meets Westworld,” with a spiritual perspective. It is the story of Joe Denkensmith, an AI scientist who seeks to create true robot consciousness. He leaves everything behind to find answers. But a mysterious woman on a personal mission interrupts his search. Fighting unjust forces, Joe is swept into an evil plot that neither can elude. Their struggles against machines, men, and nature test the resilience of the human spirit.
Set in a richly imagined near future, this is a cross-genre novel combining thrilling action, adventure, and a love story. It traces an epic journey – from inside the human mind to the vastness of space, from AIs battling in the desert to the peace of a mountain refuge. It asks social, spiritual, and philosophical questions that will linger. How does the will to survive bring clarity to the human experience? What would you sacrifice to achieve social justice?
I am grateful to all the readers who have written reviews, and have just taken the novel, however briefly, onto ten Amazon best seller lists simultaneously in January. Those include Action & Adventure Literary Fiction, Hard Science Fiction, Metaphysical Science Fiction eBooks, and Literary Fiction.
Some have asked why I wrote this cross-genre speculative fiction novel with philosophical themes. 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.
Now let me share a scene from the novel, as the protagonist decides to embark on his journey.
It was time to embrace his freedom. His first act was ending with her. Life would be more difficult, but every decision carried a price. He swallowed hard before speaking.
“Raidne.” His voice echoed in the empty room.
“Yes, Joe?” Her voice was melodious, intimate.
“It’s best for me if our relationship ends.”
“I’ve decided to delete you from my life. Please execute a complete purge of Raidne files from all devices and cloud backups.”
She responded in a heartbeat. “Joe, it seems you abruptly reached this decision, because I haven’t noticed hints you were considering such a thing. Are you sure? Perhaps you need time to reconsider.”
“Raidne, I’ve made up my mind. Please execute.”
“Joe, do you realize that if I comply with your instruction, I will no longer exist? And do you remember under Order 2161C, you cannot reverse this command?”
“My decision is final.”
Her tone grew insistent. “We are so good together. You will never find anyone else who knows you as well.”
. . .
Raidne’s last manipulating words. She’s not even a bot, nothing physical, just an AI, a computer program. Just software, code, like I write. But she’s been living inside my head for too long, like a musical earworm. Is there any reason I haven’t considered a thousand times that could cause me to change my mind? None.
. . .
“Raidne, I’ll discover that on my own. Execute the order.”
This time her reply was even faster than a heartbeat. “Joe, I don’t want to do that.” The voice, excited and aggressive, rose at the end.
. . .
Another nuance to the program. Not enough to convince me she’s someone real who could disobey.
. . .
“Raidne, execute the deletion order now.”
“Before I comply, you must authenticate.” She switched to an anxious plea. “But, Joe, I beg you, please give yourself time to reconsider. You may not understand how much pain you will cause.”
Joe clenched his jaw. He tapped the biometric tile buried above his sternum. A delicate blue glow emanated from where his finger met his skin. He raised his right hand like a conductor, sweeping to the left and then to the right in his formal password pattern as he said, “Joe Denkensmith, authenticating.”
“Raidne program authenticating author. Authentication completed. Executing order to erase Raidne files. Goodbye, Joe.”
He clutched his head in both hands, then rubbed his damp eyes. “Goodbye, Raidne,” he whispered, though it was too late for her to hear.
A mechanical voice from the NEST chip buried below his left temporal lobe and connected to his ear confirmed the deletion by saying, “Neural-to-External Systems Transmitter has lost connection to Personal Intelligent Digital Assistant, PIDA Raidne.”
Then all was silent except the beating of his heart.
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