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I Still Dream by James Smythe

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What happens when all the personal information held by tech companies is no longer private? What happens when this code of ethics is broken? When everyone in your world - in the world – can know all your secrets? This thoroughly thought-provoking novel addresses such questions - and more - as it explores the all-encompassing impact of recent, emerging and conjectured future technology through a haunting and powerfully personal account of one woman’s life.

It’s 1997 and, at the tender age of 17, Laura Bow has created a basic artificial intelligence, which she names Organon after a Kate Bush lyric. Organon begins life as Laura’s imaginary friend. This creation is her outlet, a vent, a means of dealing with the loss of her father who vanished when she was seven. As Laura grows older and gains more experiences and memories, for a time working at the tech company her father founded and sold shortly before he disappeared, so Organon grows with her. Much like a skilled human personal assistant, it informs and supports Laura through her life, managing what she needs to be aware of, filtering out the superfluous, and anticipating her needs. But, as new technologies are developed and companies create intelligences with far less morality programmed into them than Organon, millions of personal and political secrets are unleashed and the world is sent reeling to the brink of breakdown.

Shifting forward in decades from 1997, the cleverly-spun narrative spans Laura’s entire life, from the early years of dial-up Internet, to a speculative future that serves as something of a wake-up call. Taking in artificial intelligence, human intelligence, love, loss, and meaningful memories, this novel might make you reflect on how much time you spend online, and what you do and disclose there. Above all, this is an absorbing story about humanity, making moral choices and living your best life with love and ethics. ~ Joanne Owen

If you like James Smythe you might also like to read books by Iain Banks, Iain M. Banks and Robert J. Sawyer.

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

  • Charlotte Walker - 'Absolutely brilliant! I can't recommend this book enough! If you have even the slightest interest in sci-fi or technology, this is a must read!'
  • Kathryn Eastman - 'A 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.'
  • Britteny Sutcliffe - 'An excellent, modern take on a sci-fi novel that had me hooked throughout and left me considering just how much technology should feature in our lives.'
  • Victoria Emerson - 'I thoroughly enjoyed it and it sparked a big discussion in my family about the role of AI.'


I Still Dream by James Smythe

A strikingly intelligent book about intelligence itself - Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent 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? I STILL DREAM is a powerful tale of love, loss and hope; a frightening, heartbreakingly human look at who we are now - and who we can be, if we only allow ourselves.


Praise for I Still Dream:

`The best fictional treatment of the possibilities and horrors of artificial intelligence that I've read

`A haunting meditation on the implications of AI, on intelligence itself, and on what it means to live and die in the age of technology. I Still Dream is a must-read for fans of David Mitchell, for anyone who's ever used a smartphone, and for anyone who appreciates riveting plots and beautiful prose.
Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven

`Combines tense corporate drama with a tender and affecting life story. Although it describes the creation of an artificial intelligence, it is really about how we create ourselves, and the people we love. Though rooted in today's news and debates, its human story makes it timeless ... a profound and beautiful book
Will Wiles

`A humane, thought-provoking and powerful book ... superbly orchestrated ... beautiful, involving, emotionally compelling
Adam Roberts

`One of the most affecting and brilliant books I've read this year ... a huge achievement: toweringly ambitious, and yet beautifully controlled and crafted
Sam Byers, author of Idiopathy

`I STILL DREAM begins with melancholy nostalgia, before growing urgently contemporary and finally chillingly prescient. It is a strikingly intelligent book about intelligence itself: artificial intelligence, emotional intelligence, and all the ways we watch each other. Having read it, you may wish to turn off your phone
Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent

Praise for James Smythe:

`A writer with a preternaturally powerful and distinctive voice

`Smythe's storytelling is pacey and addictive; he has a fiendish talent for springing surprises
The Times

About the Author

James Smythe

James Smythe was born in London in 1980. Since completing a PhD in Cardiff University, he has taught creative writing, and is currently writer/narrative designer for a major forthcoming video game. He lives on the grounds of a boarding school in West Sussex. He has also written a novel called The Testimony, which was published by Blue Door/HarperCollins in 2011.

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Book Info

Publication date

5th April 2018


James Smythe

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The Borough Press an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


400 pages


Literary Fiction
Science Fiction
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