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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
If you ever wondered how far technology could advance in the future and what ramifications it could potentially bring, Tyler Black’s Free Radical will give you an idea. It begins with three men going hunting somewhere in the middle of a small northern European country. James and his colleague, Kieran, are given no refusal rights to join their guide Valentine to go hunting the Russian way. The hunting is supposed to cap a business meeting, but something goes awry that the trio finds themselves doomed and fighting for their very lives. Kieran has brought Taro, an AI that looks like a toy, that has an intelligent parsing system with a huge database that enables it to deepen its interpretation of so-called innocent lies. As the story shifts between the forest and the bustling corporate jungle, it becomes clear that Taro is evolving into a multiple-threat entity at the rate at which it is advancing its capabilities. And James needs to make Taro disappear permanently.
Stories like Free Radical often remind me of Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, as robots and AI often get entangled in contradictions from their intended purpose. Tyler Black’s plotting is intensely riveting and filled with information that you will appreciate and understand even if you are not tech-savvy. The type of menace presented here becomes extremely dangerous when it comes to a psychological level. Think about it: If an AI has the ability to detect innocent lies to comfort the geriatric sector and its intelligence is rapidly developing, then at what point can you assume that what it tells you is the truth and not lies for the sake of reassuring you? This is a reflective and serious story about how technology can be a double-edged sword. It is an eye-opener that will make you re-evaluate your relationship with technology.