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I Still Dream

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  340 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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 ri
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published April 5th 2018 by Borough Press
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As a teenager, Laura Bow builds an artificial intelligence. She calls it Organon after her childhood imaginary friend, itself named for a Kate Bush lyric. Organon is intended to be a sounding board, a sort of diary, a substitute therapist – a way for Laura to work through some of the feelings she has about her father's disappearance. In the first part of the book, Laura is 17 years old and just beginning to realise the potential Organon has; she makes the mistake of telling a teacher all about i ...more
Peter Boyle
Jun 18, 2018 rated it liked it
We first meet Laura Bow in 1997, when she is 17 years old. She lives with her mother and stepdad, her biological father having disappeared when she was a child. He was a computer genius, and Laura has inherited his talent. She spends all of her free time on Organon, a program she coded herself, which acts as a kind of personal companion and a sounding board for her innermost thoughts. Her efforts catch the eye of Bow, the tech company her father helped found, which is now run by the shady Mark O ...more
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
After reading the description of this book I knew I would love it, it sounded like an episode of Black Mirror which fascinates me!!

Laura Bow aged 17 has designed an Artificial Intelligence called Organon, someone she can talk and unburden her secrets too. Her rivals would love to get their hands on Organon but in the wrong hands It would be highly dangerous.

I found this book to be so addictive, it’s beautifully written and at times both funny and sad.

A must read book which makes you realise jus
I Still Dream is a cracking story about humanity, the creation of artificial intelligence, and the impact each of those things have on each other.

I love science fiction books, but this felt a little different to many of the others I’ve read. This book is quite a slow burner, but in no way do I mean boring. I didn’t want to put this book down. Just don’t expect fast paced, action packed comic book style science fiction. This is very much character led, reflective, thought-provoking, and scarily r
Liz Barnsley
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh I LOVED LOVED this book.

I Still Dream is one of those stories you just don’t want to end – not only is it beautifully written, immaculately plotted and entirely addictive, it has a wonderful main character in Laura and a highly topical, scarily prescient central theme.

I read “I Still Dream” in great big chunks – the way it is done lends itself to that very thing – as we follow Laura and her creation Organon, most definitely a character in its own right, through the ups and downs of a life les
James Smythe does it again. What an original, thought-provoking and fine author he is. I Still Dream is hauntingly melancholic, using the premise of the development of an unusual artificial intelligence over several decades to explore the very human themes of memory, forgetfulness and love. Superb and deeply affecting. Review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights.
Roman Clodia
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
'Let me into your life,' it said. 'Trust me.'

Very much in the same territory as his The Machine (though lacking that book's emotional intensity), Smythe again explores the space between (wo)man and machine: what are their limits, where do they coalesce, what's the difference between human and artificial intelligence, can one become the other?

As always, Smythe approaches his story with a probing intelligence of his own but the fractured narrative (yes, again - groan) serves to detract from the o
Brendon Schrodinger
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
I have a feeling that James Smythe is the same age as me. His 1990s teenage angst is showing and it totally connected with mine... you know what I mean.

"I Still Dream" is the tale of Laura Bow - born around 1980, computer programming father who vanishes, tinkers with programming as a teen, makes mixtapes and has a generally 1990s childhood. Except she is quite a good programmer and she starts writing a chatbot that she keeps morphing over her life until it is an AI. Each chapter jumps ahead in h
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, sff, ebook, netgalley
I Still Dream by James Smythe is an engaging and intellectually stimulating science fiction novel exploring the impact of Artificial Intelligence and the border between human and machine, reminiscent of some of the great science fiction classics.

I was gripped from the very first pages of the novel that opens in 1997, when we meet Laura Bow, a very intelligent and tech savvy 17-year old teenager with a passion for computers and coding. We learn than she has created a primitive AI system that she
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This novel is one of the author's best so far. It tells the story of Laura Bow's life, beginning in 1997, when she is 17 years old, and moving forward in ten year intervals, to 2007, 2017, 2027, and so on. In 1997, she invents a primitive AI called Organon (named after a Kate Bush lyric), partly based on work begun by her father, who was a pioneering computer programmer who disappeared in 1987, when Laura was seven. Organon was invented to serve as a kind of therapist, someone who would listen t ...more
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was chosen as our groups most recent book club read. It follows the journey of a young girl named Laura who has invented a friend/AI Organon. We follow the ups and downs of Lauras life as AI is slowly merged into societys lifestyles. This was great writing, with great depth and emotion explored with Lauras character and the facets of her life, especially her relationship with Organon. I didnt get an overabundance of that scifi AI take over the world type story. It was really a story about f ...more
Kate Vane
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In 1997, between homework and phoning her friends and making mix tapes, seventeen-year-old Laura is still struggling to come to terms with the disappearance of her father several years earlier. Her mother took her to therapy but Laura thinks she can do better.

Building on the code her father, a computer programmer, left behind, she teaches herself to write a piece of artificial intelligence (AI) software called Organon (from the Kate Bush song Cloudbusting which Laura and her father both love). S
Chantal Lyons
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is like no sci-fi I've ever read. And, if the ending fizzled out a little for me, that still doesn't mean the rest of the book wasn't worth it.

I wasn't expecting a Terminator-style story, but neither was I expecting something so reflective, realistic, and very quietly powerful. "Neuromancer" without the shiny cyberpunk. It's a slow burner, with moments of intensity, like the most exquisitely-composed violin piece. I was gripped from the beginning, and I consumed my way through the book. It
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic near future SF tale examine our relationships with AI - brilliantly written

Full review at I Still Dream by James Smythe
Steffi ~mereadingbooks~
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
intelligent. creative. human. funny. sad. scary. hopeful. beautiful.
Sid Nuncius
May 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I struggled a bit with I Still Dream. James Smythe is a very fine writer and I thought that The Machine was an outstanding book. This didn't feel nearly as original or interesting to me.

The narrative begins in 1997 when Laura Bow is seventeen and a computer genius like her late father. She begins to create Organon, a form of Artificial Intelligence which can learn and which she tries to imbue with her own human values. Meanwhile, others have appropriated her father's work on SCION, a similar pr
Jul 27, 2018 rated it liked it
In person book club choice and one that I wouldn't otherwise have picked up. Interesting play on the dystopian novel, and one that I enjoyed without being overly impressed.
Peter Heywood
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This novel bravely attempts to combine the nostalgic zeitgeist of the 1990s, the social media fears of the present day, and speculative science fiction about the generations to come.

The first two elements are the strongest - to those who grew up in the advent of the internet, Laura's rebellious dial-up teenage years will take them back. When the chapters skip forward to the present day, this nostalgia is deftly brought into the focus of 2017. Laura's world is close enough to what we know to evo
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A science fiction novel with a female lead, Laura Bow who is developing an AI that develops self-awareness.

We follow her journey from 1997 as a 17 year old working on AI in their West London bedroom, this brough back a few memories what with the mention of Finnegans pub or Finnegans Wake as it was know as I use to drink in there around that time myself!, Hippie Heaven and a few other places brought back a few more reminisces for myself.

The ten year gaps between each stage of Laura's story was ni
Alex Storer
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I must have mentally reviewed I Still Dream a dozen different times whilst reading it. I have been a keen reader of James Smythe’s work since The Explorer, but I Still Dream is a whole other level in comparison — Smythe writes with a greater maturity and a deeper level of thought and sensitivity. This is the kind of book which feels packed with a lifetime of experiences.

I Still Dream is a revelation – yet it deals with very current subjects. If you’ve ever paused for a moment, horrified at the
Yzabel Ginsberg
[I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.]

Although I didn’t adore this book, I found it to be an interesting take on artificial intelligence; on what contributes to developing an AI; on the trials and errors involved, and on how the best intentions can be tainted by poor execution, like what happens with SCION. Because, to paraphrase what Laura says about it in the novel, if you teach a child to fight and retaliate, what does it teach them about life and how to react to whatever comes thei
Caroline Mersey
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: review-copies
It's a myth to think that AIs are somehow neutral entities. They absorb the prejudices, biases and rules that we, imperfect human people, impose on them. They reflect the worst of ourselves rather than being the pinnacle of progress. In I Still Dream (review copy from Harper Collins), James Smythe explores how the way we shape the AIs will shape our very futures. This is a novel about the essence of our values as human beings and how we relate to one another.

This is a novel that follows one wom
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Told over a century and spanning three continents, I Still Dream is the story of how we live our lives today and the uncomfortable marriage we've entered into with technology.

Laura Bow is a coding prodigy. The child of a former, and missing since she was a little girl, programmer, at 17 she creates a program called Organon. Part e-diary, part chatbot, she fills the program with the daily details of her life. As she grows, Organon grows with her, becoming more of a personal assistant/confidant/g
David Harris
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance copy of I Still Dream through Amazon Vine.

In 1997, 17 year old Laura Bow argues with her mother and stepdad over the phone bill she piles up dialling in to AOL.

In 2007, Laura split up with her boyfriend who works in the same Silicon Valley tech startup as her.

And then we see Laura again in 2017, in 2027 - and later.

Each time, her story intertwines with the development by that same tech company of the AI known as Scion - and by Laura of her answer to S
Bernard O'Leary
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I guess we call this structure Mitchellesque now, it being essentially a connected series of novellas. Each novella is set exactly 10 years apart and tracks the development of an artificial intelligence, from humble beginnings in a depressed teenager's bedroom in 1997, to the inevitable data apocalypse of the near future, to a distant future of near-godlike AI. It's got some very thoughtful stuff about our relationship with technology, whether it's an evolutionary rivalry, or a parent-child rela ...more
Rebecca Rouillard
1997: 17-year-old Laura Bow develops a basic artificial intelligence that she uses to talk to about her life. She calls it Organon. From then the story checks in with Laura every decade as the world changes and Organon develops. Laura protects Organon and her own privacy fiercely but when society is threatened by other artificial intelligences, not as responsibly and sensitively nurtured, Laura must decide whether to release Organon to the world. Without spoiling it, I loved the cyclical nature ...more
May 30, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a great idea, but could've been better executed. The most disappointing part, for me, is that the author barely touches on (and only at the very end of the book) the misogyny that's endemic in the world of computer programming. As a former programmer, I was particularly annoyed by its almost non-existence in this book, and it made the story less realistic and enjoyable for me.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
James Smythe's sixth novel for adults, I Still Dream, takes lots of the technology that's explored in Mark O'Connell's recent non-fiction account of transhumanism, To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death, and runs with it. The novel kicks off in 1997, when seventeen-year-old Laura Bow is designing an artificial intelligence, Organon, while constantly arguing with her mother about the amount she spends on dial-up internet ...more
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book completely blew my mind. it was like Silicon Valley meets Jay Kristoff's AIDAN meets every day human life. The future it presents is completely acceptable and logical in a terrifying way. Definitely going to read more of James Smythe's work and I highly recommend that everyone reads this 🤩🤩
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.

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 rel
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