Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Books about the future by Dakotah Jennifer
Gary Bengier’s newest novel, “Unfettered Journey” is an authentic, scientific look into a possible future. “It’s a captivating and fast-paced futuristic love story rooted in hard-science, physics, and philosophy.” Through the piece, we are present for a future that feels eerily authentic and a man wrapped up in the philosophical questions of that world.
The novel, “…a compelling hard-science vision of the future,” according to Electronic Design Automation (EDA) Expert Paul McLellan, is a love story, an adventure, a philosophical debate, and a window into a dichotomous, familiarly foreign world. We begin Unfettered Journey learning many things: climate change has been all but reversed, planes and cars are automated, research can be done inside your brain, and most people have an AI “person” in their head that performs tasks in the background. At the very beginning of the piece, the main character erases his AI, “Raidne,” who has become more of a companion to him. His decision to “resist” is difficult and a bit emotional for him, as he has come to be connected to “her,” even though she has no real emotions. Throughout the book, Joe spirals into a world he could have never imagined.
Bengier’s novel is many things in one, but most of all, it strikes us in the heart with its “realness.” As we settle into the story everything feels normal with a twist. Unlike many other sci-fi novels, Bengier’s work is not glaringly cruel or secretly sinister—the world Joe lives in feels much like the one we are in now: it has its utopian and dystopia features, but ultimately, its real life, and we are never sure whether we are in a utopia or dystopia, or if we even have to choose. The piece presents a future that has reasonably developed from our present, one that is not strange or sudden, but nearly visible from where we stand.
Soon after we meet him, Joe learns exactly what it means to simply ponder issues versus actually combatting them, and what it means to be comfortable in your own space without looking around you. When he stumbles upon a protest outside his first meeting as a visiting professor, he essentially brushes it aside and proceeds to have avid philosophical discussions with other professors about the “Levels” and what they mean. As an advocate of the “Levels,” Joe doesn’t understand why people would protest them, as he is comfortable with his, but Joe soon learns what his comfort means, and is thrown into a world of struggle.
Bengier, not only a writer but a philosopher and technologist, has also studied astrophysics. He has spent the last twenty years or so thinking about “how to live a balanced, meaningful life in a rapidly evolving technological world,” and it shows in his novel. The piece is not only an entertaining story but a philosophical brawl. Before turning to write, Bengier worked in tech in the famed Silicon Valley, working as CFO at eBay. Not only does his career experience create an interesting perspective in his novel, but it also informs the calculated, technological nature of its framework.
In a blog post, Bengier further ponders issues he tackles in the novel, building on concepts he has woven through the piece. He writes, “Profits and the need to stay competitive will drive automation. Profits will accrue to the owners of productive enterprises. Jobs will continue to disappear. Those without jobs will struggle to find alternative means to stay afloat economically. Some might successfully retrain themselves, gaining new skills to remain part of the economic engine. Some will use their time in new creative pursuits, which (hopefully) will be in greater demand as we all have more free time.” In some ways, Bengier shows how technologies steady, natural climb through a capitalist society creates a world almost as mundanely dystopian as our current one. “More likely without fundamental changes to economic organization, there will be less money generally available, and there will not be the demand for these creative outputs, not sufficient to support living.”
Bengier writes, “(Artists may continue to be starving.)” It is not only his academic thought that becomes prominent in this piece but his critique and praise of modern society’s innovations. Unfettered Journey is just what the title promises: a step into the familiar unknown, a trip through adventure, love, science, and the hard questions to a new kind of understanding.