Book Review: I Still Dream by James Smythe
James Smythe’s latest novel I Still Dream is the compelling story of a reclusive Internet coding prodigy, her missing father, corporate ambition, love, loss and creation which begins steeped in hormones and nostalgia but becomes scarily prescient.
1997. 17-year-old Laura Bow has invented a rudimentary artificial intelligence, and named it Organon. At first it’s intended to be a sounding-board for her teenage frustrations, a surrogate best friend; but as she grows older, Organon grows with her.
As the world becomes a very different place, technology changes the way we live, love and die; massive corporations develop rival intelligences to Laura’s, ones without safety barriers or morals; and Laura is forced to decide whether to share her creation with the world. If it falls into the wrong hands, she knows, its power could be abused. But what if Organon is the only thing that can stop humanity from hurting itself irreparably?
If you’re reading this, James Smythe’s latest novel will almost certainly strike a chord with you. He takes the reader on a trip which starts in nostalgia, or the bedroom of a troubled teen and the heady early days of the Internet, and travels forwards through our present-day lives, with all our reliance on social media and our devices, and on into a possible future, and life with AI. It’s a novel which is both timely in light of very recent events and one that’s alarmingly prescient. It might make you re-evaluate your online life and how secure you think you and your information are along the way but it’s also very much a story about a daughter missing her father and the connections we make in life.
Full of humanity and vulnerability, I Still Dream looks at our need to communicate and share our lives with others, despite our hopes, dreams, fears and secrets exposing us once shared. I thought I Still Dream was a deeply moving look at intelligence, both real and artificial, and creativity, and how while we might hope and aspire to use them for altruistic purposes, they’ll also attract the attention of more commercial forces wanting to harnass and ultimately exploit them.
It is also a moving story about the impact someone’s absence from our life can have on us, what makes us human and whether or not something we create can ever be a replacement for that. I Still Dream is very much a novel of and for our times. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it without hesitation.
I Still Dream by James Smythe is published by The Borough Press, a Harper Collins imprint. It is published as an audiobook and ebook and in hardback on 5th April 2018. You can pre-order it at Amazon UK, Audible UK, Foyles, Hive (supporting your local independent bookshop), Waterstones and Wordery. For more info on James Smythe and his books, check out his Author Website or follow him on Twitter.