James, an employee dispatched abroad by a UK tech consultancy firm, never expected to be battling for survival in the wintry depths of a north-eastern European forest—severely drunk and heavily armed—alongside his enfeebled colleague, Kieran, and a Russian guide. A spur-of-the-moment, absurd hunting adventure that was meant to cap a week of business meetings quickly crescendos into a hellish nightmare, complete with a shooting, a skeletally redefining car crash, and a chance encounter with a suspect, geriatric couple. All the while, the doomed trio is accompanied by Tarō, a toy-sized robot with the AI capacity to learn by watching and listening to humans so it can tell “innocent lies” to—supposedly—comfort the elderly and infirm. And as its bond with Kieran deepens, Tarō just might figure out a solution to its newfound master's rapidly deteriorating mental and physical health.
Tech cuts both ways, though—what Tarō has seen and heard in the week preceding this point of no return is human behaviour in all its chaos and depravity. Jumping back and forth between the frozen forest and the capital city’s technology-driven business world and voluptuous nightlife, it becomes startlingly clear that everything has unravelled into irreversible madness. After trying to sell Tarō’s capabilities by day, by night James and his team of “free radicals” exploit their AI robot and indulge in excess, while their lives—and those of people close to them—crumble. And as James tries to find a way out from the mess—and to save Kieran from an uncertain fate—the increasingly unsettling Tarō listens, waiting for its opportunity to pounce.
In this dark and dizzying existential techno thriller, three story arcs converge in a private, off-road apocalypse that will leave readers as shocked as the book’s protagonist.