A profound, many-layered journey, a deep philosophical adventure.
“I want to know the truth. I want to know how and why.”
Joe Denkensmith, Level 42, vidsnap: Year 2161
Unfettered Journey 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?
“Unfettered Journey is an existential adventure for the mind and a lot more besides.”
- Carly Newfeld, The Last Word, KSFR Santa Fe Public Radio
“Shades of Huxley and Asimov. Gary F. Bengier has created a science fiction adventure that is reminiscent of the masters.”
- Lee Scott, for the Florida Times-Union
"It is so well-written…excellent storyline…one of those novels that stays with the reader long after the last page is finished."
- The US Review of Books
"Unfettered Journey is a futuristic and philosophical romantic adventure perfect for 2020."
- Bookish Muses
"... an epic expedition into the nature of consciousness, God, Reality, and the minds of Man."
- IndieReader; IR Approved
"The world is as richly imagined as the Bladerunner movie."
- Midwest Book Review
"That ending was jaw dropping. What a ride!"
- The Literary Vixen
"It's a captivating and fast-paced futuristic love story ... a future that feels eerily authentic..."
- She's Single Magazine
"…a very rich read…a fascinating portrayal…so much wisdom…"
- Donna Seebo Show
"Unfettered Journey is in the business of life-changing, really, whether it's teaching us how to love in the face of a world of loneliness and ambiguity [or] reflect on the depths of our soul and maybe just experience all the things that life has to offer us.”
- Books R&B, Vyshnavi, book blogger
Sample Passages from Unfettered Journey
Release from the Confines of technology
It was time to embrace his freedom. His first act was ending with her. Life would be harder, 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.”
. . .
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.
This mecha has the standard core AI software module, but no pseudo-emotional and human empathy modules, and no human voice interface . . . It looks like a praying mantis, praying to its gods, the humans who made it, whose wishes it obeys. No, I’m anthropomorphizing a machine again. It’s not praying. It’s not conscious because there’s no real thinking. It’s not sentient because there are no real feelings. It’s uncaring, mindless. The common idea that bots or AIs are conscious? What a joke.
“Someone’s pinged our protective honeypot. We’re getting too close to a primary database. They deleted the honeypot accounts. They’re on to us!” Then he and Raif were on defense, trying desperately to avoid being caught. His fingers pounded in the command strings.
“Deadman switch pulled. Deleting our fuzzer files and their log files,” Raif muttered. “Now to break the tunnels and lay some false trails on other nodes.”
Their pursuers churned through the encrypted barriers.
“Their quantum decryption is too fast! I need another encrypted blocker,” Joe panted, struggling with the coding.
“Here, try ropefish.” Raif passed the icon from his holo.
Hours later, with the tunnels collapsed, the encrypted false trails laid across the net, and no pings against their defensive perimeters, it seemed they’d at last escaped the predators.
Raif closed the holo and clasped Joe’s dripping hand. “Beat them. Hackers win this time.”
Self-Reliance and Self-Discovery
The Journey Inward
Maybe I can think afresh here. Maybe I can make progress on the questions that have been confusing me these last several years, questions going far beyond AI consciousness. And then again, maybe not. It’s hard to know where to start.
A Game of Chess
“But what move might I make that is both unexpected and within the rules? I don’t see the logic in how such a move can exist . . . I resign.” He pushed back from the board, discouraged and more fatigued than the hour should have allowed. “Thank you again. Do you have any other advice?”
Jardine straightened in his chair, a twinkle in his eye. “There’s always another move to avoid losing. Never resign.”
A Glass of Wine
“You mentioned the ‘I’ at the center of consciousness.” Gabe poured himself another glass. “That ‘I’ perceives meaning. The philosophical view I subscribe to is that we create semantic meaning out of our relationship with the world.”
Joe held up his wine glass. “So, for example, my idea of a glass of wine?”
“Exactly. The meaning of a glass of wine comes about by the relationship between you and the particular liquid in your glass. You react to it based on what it does at the moment, together with your memories of what a similar liquid has been like in the past.”
It was hard to look away from the magical sight of a revolving waterwheel. It was about two meters in diameter, with wooden paddles dipping into the surface of the brook. The lazy current pushed on the paddles, and the wooden axle creaked against wooden sleeves as it turned. Nailed to paddle ends were metal cans. The cans filled with water at the bottom of the wheel’s turn. As the wheel rose, the cans emptied into a wooden sluice. Water bubbled through the sluice box next to the nearer cabin.
The Combat Dome
Stepping out of the station, Joe stared up at the enormous gray monolith that obscured the entire horizon. It reminded him of his net travel exploration of Borobudur, the ancient Buddhist temple. The main dome sparkled in the sun, and three secondary domes encircled a side, gleaming like a pearl necklace. A pedestrian way led from the station to the entrance, the limestone worn by constant use.
“So that’s the Combat Dome? It’s bigger than I expected.”
“It’s called that by the mainstream net media, but not by those of us who live here. We call it the Community Dome.”
Surfing the Wave
“There's a time when you’re riding the wave, and you decide to turn, and the turn decides everything else afterward.”
“The Levels Acts keep anyone more than twenty Levels apart socially separated from one another. Social apartheid. And that’s why we’re protesting. You would never get a net connect with me. As a Level 42, you do realize it’s illegal for us to socialize at all?”
“I can do the math, not that I paid much attention to it before. It’s never been an issue,” he said.
She glared at him. “Not that I want to socialize with you. It’s my bad luck to end up with an ivory-tower 42.”
End the Acts!
“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. Then “Out with the oligarchs. In with equality!” Voice changers disguised the real voices behind their strident incantations.
Encounter with the Minister
“I’ve heard Peightân is a Level 1,” Mike whispered as the minister approached.
Joe pasted on a smile as Peightân stood before him, the assistant and copbots a meter behind. The minister’s piercing eyes, dark and slightly bloodshot, stood out on his pallid face. He reached out a hand, and Joe took it. His handshake was firm and viselike, his skin damp. A second later he turned to the next group. The assistant swaggered away, curling his lip at Joe as he passed. The copbots followed in lockstep, their graphene-Kevlar mesh capes swishing.
Mike’s face twitched as he grumbled, “Why’d they let them in here? One person’s social order is another’s disorder.”