Today ScienceThrillers welcomes guest author Ransom W. Stephens whose latest science thriller The Sensory Deception goes on sale today. Want a free copy? Dr. Stephens is also offering ScienceThrillers fans a chance to win a paperback of his new novel. Enter the giveaway below; all it takes is a free subscription to the 4 times per year ScienceThrillers e-newsletter.
Here’s the “back cover” summary of his new release:
Moments after venture capitalist Gloria Baradaran experiences what it’s like to be a polar bear—really be a polar bear—she knows she’s found something revolutionary. Farley Rutherford and his team—migraine-tortured neurologist “Chopper” Vittori and über-geek engineer Ringo Hayes—have created sensory saturation, a virtual reality system that drops users into the psyches of endangered animals as they fight for survival, and they believe the profound experience could turn the indifferent masses into avid environmentalists.
Ringo’s hardware is ready to go, but the pressures to get the system off the ground are immense. The money-men want more bang for their buck, and that includes bigger, more dangerous animals, and—more than anything—the ability to turn the machines into profitable games. But to Farely and his team, this is anything but a game. To some, in fact, this is a cause they’d kill for…
The Sensory Deception is a mind-blowing, globe-trotting ride that will take readers from cut-throat Silicon Valley boardrooms to the pirate ships off the Somali coast to the devastated rain forests of the Amazon all to ask the question: What is a human life worth compared to that of an entire planet?
And now, a few words from the author about the inspiration for The Sensory Deception.
By Ransom W. Stephens
What if people could experience the struggles of endangered animals firsthand? Do you think it would alter their perspective? Could it change their politics?
Most animals can’t deconstruct their sensory data and speculate on cause-effect relationships. Without the ability to reflect and a language with which to formulate thoughts, their entire lives consist of immediate interaction with the world. People, on the other hand, process and ponder.
The trick is sensory saturation. A threshold beyond which the brain is so overwhelmed by sensory data that it switches gears from reflective thinking to the immediate process-and-response that animals experience.
Santa Cruz zoologist Farley Rutherford got the idea for virtual reality technology based on sensory saturation while watching video he took by attaching a camera to bird. When he played it on the big screen for his buddies, migraine-suffering neurologist Chopper Vittori and comic-enthusiast electrical engineer Ringo Hayes, “With the lights out and the sound cranked up, it was like a roller coaster ride. We all got vertigo. Ringo almost hurled.”
With a prototype in place, they get the attention of a venture capital scout, Gloria Baradaran, by giving her the experience of a polar bear struggling to find ice floes in a melting arctic.
The germ of the idea for The Sensory Deception occurred to me while reading a story in the newspaper about a polar bear who washed up on an Iceland beach after swimming over 200 miles, only to be shot by police.
I wondered how people would respond to virtual reality experiences of endangered animals. Research revealed that neuroscience experiments demonstrate that VR alters people’s feelings, even their politics. Then I started thinking in epoch terms, which made me want to create my own Heath Ledger-as-the-Joker-like bad guy and to stir the influences of Melville and Verne. What if you could experience the greatest battle in all of nature? Ahh, but the rub, what would you have to go through to develop the technology? To record all that experiential data, you’d need a big bull sperm whale . . .
Ransom Stephens, Ph.D. is a science writer, physicist, and technologist based in Petaluma, California. The author of two novels, The God Patent and The Sensory Deception, Dr. Stephens is also a beer-drinking, cussing, Raider fan.