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Book Review - "Free to Fall" by Lauren Miller

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the right sidebar.

9780062199805_p0_v1_s260x420Lauren Miller’s latest novel, Free To Fall, is a powerful story.  The plot takes place fifteen years into the future, a warning of how technology can overtake people’s lives.  This is a must read for anyone dependent on technology. The storyline is part science fiction, part mystery-thriller.

The plot has people’s inner voice and intuition eliminated. They get fulfillment from following what this app, Lux, recommends.  But it becomes more than that since everyone seems to be consulting Lux for every aspect of their lives. Taking place fifteen years in the future, Apple and Google have been replaced by Gnosis, a conglomerate corporation that allows their new app, Lux, to optimize decision-making for the best personal results.  Rory, a sixteen year old, is addicted to this new app just like everyone else.  But after being accepted to the Theden Academy, a college prep boarding school, she starts to question her dependence on technology.  The mystery begins when Rory, with the help of North, a townie who is anti-establishment, uncovers a truth about her parents, the technology, and her school.

This powerful theme explores how everyone communicates mostly with their technology than human contact.  Think about today where everyone is attached to their tablets and phones, posting to Twitter, and listening to music on their ear buds. Those who don’t think it is realistic look no farther than a new Facebook app, which can listen to people’s conversations and know their surroundings through the phones’ microphone.  Although today technology is not to the point where it is programmed to think for people, the author explores the idea of what technology could do in the not so distant future.  In the story Apple’s Suri is being replaced by the next generation Lux, which makes life decisions.

Miller commented to, “As a society we are hyper-focused on personal independence and freedom, yet we cede so much of our decision making to these little rectangular devices.  Our map app tells us which route to take and we do, even though it could lead us in the wrong direction.  We use Google to provide us with the information needed, yet, never go beyond the first page.  This is very scary to me.  We are not skeptical enough.  I wanted to write a story about free will and how dependent we have become on technology. I have Lux, as a Suri on steroids.  Gnosis is Google meets Apple.  All these companies have a lot of control over our lives.  They definitely have more information than they need and having the information is very powerful.  I wanted to show what could happen if these devices become more accurate and are integrated into our lives.  I am afraid we may let them make our decisions and that is very alarming to me.  This is us signing up with our eyes wide open allowing these corporations to see what we are doing and making our choices.” 

Miller skillfully parallels the past, present, and future.  She does this by referencing secret societies, John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the Old Testament.  There is a lot of symbolism from the story of Adam and Eve, Steinbeck’s “Timshel,” that emphasizes making good choices, and Milton’s Paradise Lost where Satan replaces the Serpent as a Garden of Eden tale. As with all these references the author shows how some in society think they are more knowledgeable than anyone else and become G-d like.

Miller noted to, “I wanted the characters in this book to mirror those in the story of the Garden of Eden.  We need to use our free will to make choices, especially the correct choice.  That is why I put in the Hebrew word, “Timshel,” because I loved this idea of choosing to make the good choice.  We need to exercise our free will with our brain. I think we re-live the Adam and Eve story over and over again.  Eve let someone else tell her what to do and in my book I have this app, Lux, doing the same. She let the serpent trick her into giving up her freedom.  We are no different.  We let ourselves be managed and controlled while pretending we are calling the shots.”

Free To Fall is an engaging and thought-provoking novel. The story line has a lot of action, romance, secrecy, and insightful issues.   The topics explored are realistic and could easily happen in the not so distant future, which made the drama very intense. It is a must read for anyone living in the techno-world.