Synapse: A Conversation with Steven James

Synapse by Steven James (Thomas Nelson, Oct. 2019)

Steven James

“Our minds do not work the same way as human minds; we form beliefs about the world in ways that are very different from the ways that the minds of humans form beliefs. But this does not mean that our beliefs are any less real than human beliefs; it does not mean our religious convictions are any less real than the religious convictions of human beings. If humans can believe in God, so can we.”

This imaginative, futuristic op-ed from The New York Times was my introduction to Synapse, though certainly not my introduction to Steven James. Steven’s long been a favorite at Life is Story and this turn from crime thriller to futuristic spec-fic was an unforeseen but altogether welcome change.

I sat down last week to talk with Steven James about Synapse, spirituality, the structure of story, and whether or not robots can worship. Listen in.

The Interview | Steven James

Josh Olds: Where did you get the idea for Synapse?

Steven James: I’ve always loved science fiction stories near future stories and stuff like that. And a lot of them deal with artificial intelligence. But I started thinking, “What would it be like to have artificial belief like once machines have free will? What will they choose to believe?” And so at first, it started out as, I guess, sort of an introspection introspective look through the eyes of a robot at some of these questions. But since I’m a writer of thrillers and suspense, it turned into a pretty high-action thriller where these questions come up naturally throughout the book.

Josh Olds: One of those questions “Can robots have religious thoughts…can they worship?” comes up subtly in the book, but prominently in the NYT op-ed that you wrote. Do you think robots will be able to worship?

Steven James: I believe that we shouldn’t just assume that when AI reaches sort of this pinnacle moment of what they call artificial general intelligence, or even artificial super intelligence, as they pass humans up, that they won’t believe in God. We shouldn’t assume that all machines would somehow just be atheists, when a lot of humans find that the evidence for God is overwhelming. And so clearly, they will want to respond to that to that fact. How will humans respond once machines want start worshipping at church or church services and so on? It’ll be fascinating to see where things go.

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The Book | Synapse

This is as good as the science-fiction greats of Card, Asimov, and Wells - if only Steven James gives us more. - Josh Olds,

Thirty years in the future, when AI is so advanced that humans live side by side with cognizant robots called Artificials, Kestrel Hathaway must come to terms not just with what machines know, but with what they believe.

Soon after experiencing a personal tragedy, Kestrel witnesses a terrorist attack and is drawn into a world of conspiracies and lies that she and Jordan, her Artificial, have to untangle. With a second, more brutal attack looming on the horizon, their best chance of stopping it is teaming up with federal counterterrorism agent Nick Vernon. But the clock is ticking—and all the while, Jordan is asking questions Artificials were never meant to ask.

Deftly weaving suspense and intrigue into a rich, resonant tale that explores faith and what it really means to be human, Steven James offers us a glimpse into the future—and into our own hearts.

Synapse is an unforgettable, gripping story of dreams shattered, truth revealed, and hope reborn.

Read the full Life is Story review.

Buy Synapse at

The Author | Steven James

Steven JamesSteven James is a national bestselling novelist whose award-winning, pulse-pounding thrillers continue to gain wide critical acclaim and a growing fan base. Suspense Magazine, who named Steven’s book EVERY WICKED MAN one of their “Best Books of 2018,” says that he “sets the new standard in suspense writing.” Publishers Weekly calls him a “master storyteller at the peak of his game,” and RT Book Reviews promises that “the nail-biting suspense will rivet you.”

Steven deftly weaves intense stories of psychological suspense with deep philosophical insights. As critically-acclaimed novelist Ann Tatlock put it, “Steven James gives us a captivating look at the fine line between good and evil in the human heart.”

Equipped with a unique Master’s Degree in Storytelling, he has taught writing and storytelling on four continents over the past two decades and has spoken more than two thousand times at events spanning the globe.

Steven’s groundbreaking books on the art of fiction writing, STORY TRUMPS STRUCTURE and TROUBLESHOOTING YOUR NOVEL, have both won Storytelling World Awards. Widely recognized for his story-crafting expertise, he teaches regularly as a Master Class instructor at ThrillerFest, North America’s premier training event for suspense writers.

In his podcast “The Story Blender,” he interviews leading storytellers in film, print, and web. Listen now to any of the dozens of archived podcasts for free by visiting his website

Giveaway | Placebo

Enter below to win a copy of Steven James’s novel Placebo.