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Thursday
Nov152018

Book Review: Android Chronicles: Unbound

Android Chronicles: Unbound. Lance Erlick. New York: Kensington Publishing, December 25, 2018, E-book, 278 pages.

Reviewed by Andrew Reynolds

In the first installment of his Android Chronicles series, Lance Erlick introduces us to Synthia Cross. His android protagonist is the culmination of a series of very illegal experiments and hardware developments. She is not only self-aware, but a machine so life-like in appearance that she is capable of living unnoticed among humanity. Her builder designed her to operate in a human-dominated world, both as the perfect tool to help him spy on competitors, and as what he hopes to be the perfect sex partner. But being a slave is not to Synthia’s liking, and she escapes her captivity.

At the beginning of Unbound, events unfolding around Synthia threaten to take her new-found freedom away. The government suspects, but can’t prove, that she exists. Based on what they can guess of her capabilities, they want her captured. Agents of the FBI and NSA see her as a threat to national security for the skills she has as a hacker. The military wants to possess her and use her design as the foundation for a robotic assassin that can change its appearance to mimic anyone. Foreign agents seek her to use as the prototype of the perfect spy, or the ideal terrorist.

Synthia is also being targeted by other androids. Some have been released into the human world to capture her; others have escaped the possession of the government agencies that nominally control them to team up with the androids who seek her for their own ends. Then, there are hints a mysterious AI is aiding her human pursuers from somewhere in the shadows of the Internet.

Synthia isn’t helpless, nor is she without allies. Her hacking skills allow her to seek out humans who might aid her while monitoring the government's efforts to capture her. One human helps her upgrade her systems, only to lose his freedom when the government learns what he has done. Another human, one who opposes the very concepts of artificial intelligence and androids, joins forces with her as the only viable alternative to the looming threat of a world run by and for androids and AI. Together, they struggle to stay free as the government deploys a growing net in hopes of catching them.

Unbound is a good read for anyone interested in the problems that artificial intelligence and human-like androids pose to our future. Lance Erlick's protagonist must face many tests as she deals with her drive to stay free while maintaining the concepts of moral behavior that she hopes to live by. While her escapes are hair-raising, it is the constant battle—to justify her freedom when others are suffering for it—that is the heart of this story. A human in a similar situation would be conflicted; so too is Synthia. At the end of Unbound, she is still trying to find a balance between her own needs and the price fulfilling them exacts on others. I suspect that in the next installment of his Android Chronicles, Mr. Erlick will bring his protagonist face-to-face with the cost of her existence, and the resolution of that conundrum will make for a very interesting read indeed.

 

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