Gray Matters

Can the digital networks that record our footprints hold us steady when dementia threatens to push us off the path? This question has real stakes for data analyst Charlie Sanders. His best hope for a father succumbing to Alzheimer’s comes from assistive technology that Charlie helps design for a scrappy startup. Despite early successes, Charlie has growing doubts about the motives of each of his colleagues – the eccentric CEO in Seattle, the call center guru in India, and the Trump-loving Aussie transplant who keeps the books. Chalrie’s worries grow when the company takes on a clandestine client who occupies a high office. Can Charlie keep his father and his country on track, or will he turn a whole generation into glitches?

Gray Matters is now available via Audible, Amazon, IndieBound, your local bookstore, or most anywhere that sells books. If you want me to do a reading with your book club, give a talk, or hang out in a video-chat, just send an email.

This novel weaves together Alzheimer’s and new technology. For a very personal interview with the author focused on dementia, listen to this episode of the Fading Memories podcast. For a more freaky interview about the dangers of digital tech without deliberation, the Beyond Reality podcast will do the trick.

Early Praise from Smart People Who Say They Liked It

Gray Matters sets up shop in the painfully funny overlap of fiction’s near future/real world Venn diagram. It’s a rare novel that’s in equal measure heartbreaking and heartening, thanks in large part to Charlie Sanders, a character so poignantly funny and so utterly compelling that I would follow him anywhere—even into a glitchy dystopia full of AI and wonky politics.

Will Clarke, author of the New York Times Editors’ Choice novels The Neon Palm of Madame Melançon and Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles

Gray Matters creates a dystopia that feels hauntingly close to where we are headed today. Gastil’s first novel is a technological and political allegory that is equal parts Margaret Atwood and Dave Eggers. Rich metaphors, poignant humor, and brilliant writing kept me wiping away tears from laughing, crying, or both.

Genevieve Fuji Johnson, author of Democratic Illusion

It’s rare that I see a novel that captures how language slides away from us–and how confusing the once-familiar world becomes–as one enters dementia. Rarer still is the imaginative grappling with our desire to stave off Alzheimer’s with technology, a feat that often shows more hubris than humanity.

Robert Schrauf, co-editor of Dialogue and Dementia

Gray Matters is a gripping look at what may become of us as we willingly plug ourselves, and even our minds, into the Internet. Gastil’s writing is hilarious and heartfelt, foreboding and uplifting, a mass of wonderful contradictions.

David L. Williams, author of The Armageddon Dance Party

Gastil created characters that are flawed, yet caring of others in their own way… [His story introduces] a device called the Walker Talker and weekly calls that anyone with Dementia…and a chip called the Compass that if it worked [we] might want it to be fact rather than fiction in this thought provoking novel.

Fran Lewis, Just Reviews

Why the author wrote it

“Gray Matters pulled together many threads in my life. Living in Seattle for more than a decade, I came to appreciate its entrepreneurial spirit. I also saw its political and technological utopianism, which I juxtaposed against Detroit and Ahmedabad, India–two cities with contrasting trajectories.

I also wrote the novel as a tribute to my father and grandmothers, who suffered from different forms of dementia late in life. Gray Matters explores the difficulty people have confronting the reality of dementia and the disquieting continuity between severe cognitive impairment and the ways people make decisions every day.”

John Gastil