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vN by Madeline Ashby
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vN (edition 2012)

by Madeline Ashby

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1762167,448 (3.59)7
Member:devilwrites
Title:vN
Authors:Madeline Ashby
Info:Angry Robot (2012), Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Collections:Shara's Library, Kindle
Rating:***1/2
Tags:madeline ashby, science fiction, kindle, read: ssw

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vN by Madeline Ashby

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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
In the first chapter, a five-year-old child robot eats her estranged grandmother, python-style, and goes from kindergartner to adult in an instant from the additional biomass.

Good opening, and there are some interesting WTF circumstances (like robots were created to fill out the Earth after the rapture) but the rest stagnates. Once again, it's a book where the robots don't act like robots. They act like people. The only difference is they know they were artificially created. But other than that, they eat, they fall in love, they procreate. You can't tell the difference. The interesting things are just background -- they don't come into play with the plot and don't even make plausible sense in the scheme of the world.

The story is about programming as parenting. The problem is it felt more like a summer blockbuster action piece with chase sequences and romances that don't blossom until the end, and for me, those just don't work in a book format. It was a sludge to get through. It's a promising idea, and it does use some tropes like the existence of smart "gray goo" and robots in/as families in new ways. I can see this appealing to those few who liked A.I. and Brazil. ( )
  theWallflower | Jul 19, 2014 |
A bit unevenly paced but some interesting ideas about power and robot/human interactions. Will definitely pick up the next one [iD] ( )
  SChant | Jul 7, 2014 |
The premise of a book - of having a synthetic being as the protagonist and main character, was certainly intriguing,and what drew my attention in the first place. And it's certainly good to read a scifi book that is not all dystopian/post-apocalyptic.
On the plus side, the book is mostly well written, and easy to get yet with an interesting storyline. The contrast between Amy and Portia is really stark. I wish there was more of Portia. However, in some points, I just had no clear idea what the hell was going on - such as Javier and Amy's visit to the Seattle museum. I just couldn't visualise the scene. Might be something wrong with me.
One thing that felt wrong to me was that despite being technologically advanced enough to have almost-human machines, the rest of the technology of vN's world is pretty much of the present level, which is... weird.
Nevertheless, for the sheer novelty of the concept, it's a book worth a try, and I'm looking forward to the next book in the Machine Dynasty series. ( )
  hoodakaushal | Jun 25, 2014 |
I hope you're hungry because vN will definitely give you a lot to chew on! The main character Amy is a young robot - but not the typical image that likely first pops into your mind of some metal robot. These robots pretty much look just like humans, have skin (though flawless), bleed, eat, etc. They give birth or "iterate" in a similar way that humans do (you'll have to read to find out how). Their offspring are babies and grow as they feed on raw materials, but they look like exact copies of their parent. So since they are born babies they need to eat and grow essentially like we do. They have a fail safe in them to not be able to stand if harm comes to humans.

When I first read the description of vN and saw that cover I knew I had to read it. I mean come on - she eats her own grandmother! If that isn't enough to entice you to read it - Amy practically goes bat shit crazy because of it. Alright, well more like her grandmother was bat shit crazy and is now inside her head constantly trying to take over. It makes for some great action throughout the whole book.

The first few chapters is a nice setup with background info on Amy, her mother and father. Her mother is a vN her father is human. Obviously he isn't a "biological" father but he loves Amy's mother and her. After these short chapters in the beginning the action starts and practically never stops! It was such an interesting book and you get to read from several different points of view. Often when I read a book done that way I feel like you can't see enough of the character progression and growth but this book was so well written that you definitely feel Amy's growth as well as the main supporting character Javier.

The ideas presented in vN are fascinating. Could this be where we are headed? I love thinking about science fiction of any kind and imagining if that kind of technology will really be what we will have in 20, 50, or 100 plus years. All of the struggles that Amy goes through, physical, mental and yes emotional were executed perfectly. Also, the ones you see in Javier. Amy is obviously special so I really liked the fact that you also got to see the progression of Javier since he is more like the typical vN and you can see how they really are people even if they are robots. They think and feel and can want things beyond their built in restrictions.

The tension between Amy and Javier is awesome, as the reader I think you can sense there might be something there and you might even want there to be - but the author builds the relationship so well that it is so much more of a solid and real interaction to me than many other books I've read.

I'm foaming at the mouth to read the next book. Though I know this was the first book in a series it was MOST definitely its own complete story and can in my mind stand on its own legs. I hate when series books are started off and they just leave you with a cliff hanger at the end. This was not the case. I think if you are up for something different definitely give vN a try. It's not a 'light' read but it's got so much action to it and thought provoking juices that you'll rip right through it! ( )
  Pabkins | Jun 24, 2014 |
While reading Vn, I was frequently reminded of a mission statement I saw once on Angry Robot’s website – to publish the best in modern adult genre fiction, or in their words, “SF, F and WTF?!” This book certainly falls mostly in the first category, but also possesses a strong generous splash of the third.

At the heart of vN is a story about choice and independence in synthetic humans/artificial intelligences which in itself is not a very original premise in science fiction, but Ashby piles on a ton of new ideas of her own that make this book a fascinating and sometimes disturbing read. Called “vonNeumanns” or vNs after their creator, the original proposal for the self-replicating humanoid robots in this novel in fact came from the most unlikely source – an End Times group who wanted to leave a body of helpers behind for the millions of unsaved after the rapture.

Other bizarre or perturbing things include a graphic scene of robot cannibalism; a harrowing jail break; a male vN giving birth (or “iterating”) in a sticky, gooey process; the implication that pedophiles acquire vN and make them stay forever young by keeping them – all in the prologue and first couple of chapters. The robots have a failsafe that prevent them from doing harm to humans, and witnessing anything violent or upsetting can risk triggering it, shorting the vN out. But still, while it’s apparent that vNs themselves look, act and have emotions much like humans do, their lives aren’t valued the same way; non-functioning or “blue-screened” vN are tossed aside like garbage, a process described in all its unpleasantness. Not to mention the use of vNs in the porn industry, or some of the other sickening and questionable things humans do to them. All this made the book a unique and sometimes eyebrow-raising read, but at least there’s no accusing it of not being able to hold my attention.

That this is an adult novel is no doubt a given, considering some of its mature themes. But within it I was also a little surprised to find a coming-of-age story … in a sense. The book’s protagonist Amy is a vN living in a mixed-family, a young iteration of her vN mother who is of the same clade. Amy’s human father, perhaps a little naively, tries to give his android daughter a “normal” life, controlling her diet so that she physically looks like a little girl, attending school and participating in other activities that real kids do. But when an incident strikes Amy’s kindergarten graduation, Amy ends up devouring her vN grandmother (yeah, you read that right…it’s a long, freaky story), somehow integrating her software. The extra food source also transforms Amy, so overnight she becomes a grown woman sharing her mind with the voice of her psychotic grandmother.

Literally a new person, Amy is forced to make her way through the world and gain an adult perspective on matters her parents had previously shielded her from. In a way, everything is new and strange to her and the reader both. I found myself asking the same questions as her about the things she saw. Was her father deluding himself with the life he wanted for himself and for her? What is a vN’s role: helper, companion or just another technological tool? How should society deal with sentient beings that aren’t really alive? Are artificial intelligences even capable of love? Is Amy limited by her programming, or is there a possibility of growing beyond her code?

Despite some of the weirdness in this novel, it is a fascinating tale of Amy’s self-discovery and emergence from the shadow of others’ expectations of her. Probably my biggest disappointment was the way things ended. It was a pretty weak conclusion, a little random and out of nowhere after everything that came before, but the tepid ending notwithstanding, I thought this was an overall absorbing and poignant read. Definitely one of the bolder, more provocative titles from Angry Robot. ( )
  stefferoo | May 2, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Madeline Ashbyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bland, MartinCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Caitlin Sweet, who loved Amy first,

and

Peter Watts, the Giant Squid who lent me an island when I rebuilt myself
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Jack had lived through this same moment before, with human women.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0857662627, Paperback)

Amy Peterson is a self-replicating humanoid robot known as a VonNeumann.

For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother's past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.

Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she's learning impossible things about her clade's history - like the fact that she alone can kill humans without failsafing...

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:54 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine--a self-replicating humanoid robot. For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother's past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks them, Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive. Now she's on the run, carrying her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive. She's growing quickly, and learning too. Like the fact that in her, and her alone, the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has stopped working. Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her"--Publisher's description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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