Free Radical

Fiction - Science Fiction
288 Pages
Reviewed on 06/28/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

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.

K.C. Finn

Free Radical is a work of fiction in the science fiction, techno-thriller, and interpersonal drama sub-genres, and was penned by author Tyler Black. The work is intended for the mature adult reading audience due to the use of explicit language throughout and scenes and references of a sexual nature in the main storyline. The story follows three strands of narrative set at different but converging times, focusing on the effect that tech-consultant James and his unstable colleague Kieran have had on Tarō, a small robot AI that has been watching and learning from them through a terrifying disaster. What results is a highly engrossing and suspenseful thriller tale that is sure to keep readers turning the pages from cover to cover.

Author Tyler Black has crafted a deep-thinking and masterfully penned work of science fiction with plenty of character depth, original ideas, and logical yet terrifying plot conclusions to offer its readers. One of the features which I found particularly impressive about this piece was its construction, which layers strands of different narratives over one another to enable the full picture of the plot to come to you slowly, in a tense and terrifying piece-by-piece style that you can feel is leading to a shocker of a conclusion. The development of Tarō the AI is also a triumph, and it’s a treat to see an author who not only understands the technical prowess and potential of AI thoroughly but can also balance that with genuine human emotion, relatable fear, and deep psychology. Overall, I would highly recommend Free Radical to fans of mind-bending AI-inspired writing, fully formed and satisfying sci-fi works, and for techno-thriller enthusiasts everywhere.

Karl Pottinger

Excellent read. A book for our times. Laugh out loud funny but also discusses things that matter in a changing world. From the streets of Tallin to the Estonian hinterland James and Kieran take us on a rollicking exploration of AI and it's limits and gifts to humanity. Still laughing but also thinking about many of the technology themes.