This review is submitted for W.O.W.’s (Women on Writing) blog tour!
A five star review! A roller coaster of a read!
As the ancient Greek poet Homer gave us his Odyssey, we now have Larry Kilham’s novel – an odyssey of another sort – in which he explores what many in the scientific community have been addressing for some time: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual reality (VR). Also, with the current epidemic of opioid addiction, FREE WILL ODYYSEY is timely and addresses through well-crafted story telling what readers will understand in profound and new ways.
Kilham’s roller coaster of a read in FREE WILL ODYSSEY is one of the few novels which has successfully woven AI and VR into a work of fiction, totally capturing our imagination and challenging our beliefs.
His story is theme driven, using the main protagonist, Peter Tesla, to take us on an intricate journey in his search to find a way for AI to offer us free will as a choice for healing: “to unlock the mind from pleasure traps of excessive eating, drug addiction, and other health problems.”
The other characters in the story are supporting cast members who serve to move the narrative and make Tesla’s explorations all the more relevant.
We know from the start what motivates Tesla: his sister had died from an overdose of illegal drugs, “succumbing to some homemade killer concoction.” Interestingly, Kilham hasn’t chosen an extraordinary scientist nor a dramatic hero for this role. Peter is a young man who grew up on a farm building ham radios, eventually studying electrical engineering and computer programming. His interest in the concept of free will began, Kilham tells us, “when he wandered fields and woods with an open and inquiring mind . . . thinking that curiosity in everything and openness to the world is key to a full, useful, and happy life.”
To have curiosity and to feel a wide range of emotions, however, one must have clarity of thought and not be a victim of an addiction of any sort.
Determined to find a way for the ordinary citizen or even the President of the U.S. to have the free will that can enable them to control their lives and avoid succumbing to addictions, we find ourselves wondering whether Kilham is indeed prescient in his ability to envision and create many of the pitfalls throughout Peter’s odyssey to find a way to “help a person get his or her mind out of automated thinking and into wide horizons and creativity.”
What propels him forward on his journey to design Electra (an intelligent virtual companion) is his determination to prove that a computer program will be able to allow users “to be released from previous unavoidable stale thoughts in order to anticipate the future and plan within a complex social environment.”
As in his other books, Kilham’s wealth of knowledge seems endless but not intrusive. He has so much information to share and finds ways to enlighten the reader. One would be foolish not to take heed or not to appreciate this story.
FREE WILL ODYSSEY is an elegant novel in which the interface between Artificial Intelligence and Free Will is explored in depth, hoping to prove that both our physical health and mental abilities are changed and may be shaped by our interactions with technology. (more…)