A young man must make radical leaps in perception to save humanity from a powerful artificial intelligence in this debut sci-fi novel.
In 2074, the world is half-drowned and dangerous; a few lucky rich people live in protected domes, but most struggle. Arthur Blackstone, 65, a genius trillionaire who founded Blackstone Labs, is dying—to live again. He has just enough time left to transfer his memories to a clone (2 years old chronologically; 10 biologically) and make a will in his favor. A copy of Arthur’s brain, an AI called SINE, is kept in a cyberprison inside Blackstone Labs, dangerous because it’s “a monstrous creation; a super-intelligence without a shred of empathy.” But a security breach caused by Olivia “Liv” Blackstone, Arthur’s granddaughter by adoption, lets SINE loose, which begins its project to take over the world. Meanwhile, Adam Bionine—as the clone is called—grows up in an orphanage with no memories of his past. But in 2084, Adam catches Liv keeping tabs on him. Following her takes Adam off the grid and to a group of rebels bent on bringing down SINE. Adam’s memories are restored with a plant-based brew that also opens his mind to quantum realities and the nature of his true self, giving him remarkable powers, but Liv’s mother, Penelope, is captured. With a small band of allies, Adam has two days to rescue Penelope, stop SINE, and convince all humans of their underlying unity. A.L.F.I.E. offers an action-packed novel of ideas, drawing on correspondences between ancient philosophies and modern physics/computer science. This blend works surprisingly well; some books with similar themes become wooly-headed or overly abstract, but the author always brings the storytelling mojo. Whether describing a cinematic fight scene with cool weapons (like Liv’s whip with an “atomic injector nozzle”) or an inner journey into psychedelic consciousness, A.L.F.I.E. makes his complicated sequences clear to follow and exciting to read. Despite the nearly nonstop action, the story develops its characters nicely, and there’s even time for a sweet romance between Adam and Liv. Altogether, it’s a rich and satisfying confection.
A thrilling superhero journey that remains smart and thoughtful.