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vN (First Machine Dynasty) [Kindle Edition]

Madeline Ashby
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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...


From the Trade Paperback edition.


Editorial Reviews

Review

"Picks up where Blade Runner left off and maps territories Ridley Scott barely even glimpsed. (Philip K Dick would have been at home here, but Ashby's prose is better.) vN might just be the most piercing interrogation of humanoid AI since Asimov kicked it all off with the Three Laws." - Peter Watts, author of Blindsight... vN did not disappoint. It is a fantastic adventure story that carries a sly philosophical payload about power and privilege, gender and race. It is often profound, and it is never boring." - Cory Doctorow

About the Author

Madeline Ashby grew up in a household populated by science fiction fans. She graduated from a Jesuit university in 2005, after having written a departmental thesis on science fiction. After meeting Ursula K. LeGuin in the basement of the Elliott Bay Book Company that year, she decided to start writing science fiction stories. While immigrating to Canada from the United States in 2006 , she could not work or study and joined the Cecil Street Irregulars – a genre writers’ workshop founded by Judith Merril – instead. Since then she has been published in Tesseracts, Flurb, Nature, Escape Pod and elsewhere. She has a masters degree in Manga and Anime and writes on such matters for i09, Tor.com and BoingBoing. Currently she works as a strategic foresight consultant in Toronto.

Product Details

  • File Size: 413 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Angry Robot (July 31, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0076Q1J60
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #261,067 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
62 of 70 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
But really, all pop culture references aside (and there are numerous), the book was middle of the road for me. For all the potential this story had, I found myself really struggling with the pacing, lack of exposition, and the ending. I hate to give the book two stars because there were some great ideas presented, and I certainly think Amy is an endearing protagonist who is worthy of reader affection, but after about halfway through the novel I found myself skimming pages in an almost desperate attempt to finish the book without spending any more time on it than I had to (which I did). The events that transpire around the book's middle and thereafter really fumbled me up, and the only reason I opted to finish the book was because of the time I'd already invested in the first half. I'll do my best to avoid spoilers

We are introduced to Amy (a synthetic humanoid android) in the prologue through the viewpoint of her human father. The time we spend here is actually quite precious and does its job of bringing the reader into a world that certainly has an authentic feel. Chaos ensues during Amy's kindergarten grad ceremony when her glitched-out grandmother shows up and demonstrates a failsafe malfunction that allows her to kill a human child, one of Amy's classmates. Amy flies into action an eats her grandmother, somehow absorbing her software.

We then switch to Amy for most of the remainder of the book. Amy comes under arrest after the events of her grad ceremony cause something of a mass-market recall for her model. On her way to "prison" she is boosted by another vN, Javair, and begins living as a fugitive with the primary goal of reuniting with her parents, while the whole time learning about her mother and grandmother's past.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars unable to finish it June 17, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm baffled by the positive reviews of this book. The writing is painfully bad. It reads like the work of a thirteen-year-old trying to be profound and edgy. In a typical turn of phrase from this book we read, during a fight scene, "Her teeth sang." Ah. Well. "Sing", did they? It is page after page of this kind of crap.

The science fiction in the book is so moronic it strains one's suspension of disbelief far past the breaking point. If it were a Douglas Adams story the absurdity would be the point. But this story isn't trying to be funny. You're supposed to take it seriously. It's much worse than the "human battery" plot point in the Matrix, for comparison.

The characters are so poorly developed, it's often struggle to figure out what the author is getting at. An odd phrase leaves you thinking "What? Oh! Right! There was one sentence three chapters ago briefly mentioning this character trait."

I tried twice to finish it, but am throwing in the towel at this point. I've read books that are intentionally or unintentionally so bad they're good. This book is not like that. It's just bad.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I am pleased to say that this book gets it mostly right. It's enjoyable, scientifically minded, culturally thought-provoking, and examines a real life issue in the context of genre, which long-time readers of this blog know is something I highly enjoy.

The first thing that made me know this is a smart book is the source of the robots (called Von Neumanns after their creator). A fundamentalist group in the American South decided that the humans left behind after Jesus' Second Coming should have someone to help them through the Tribulation, so they invented humanoid robots to be ready to help. Clearly, the Second Coming didn't happen, and the fundamentalists ended up selling Von Neumanns, and the Von Neumanns wind up a part of the cultural backdrop, not to mention the porn industry. This is the most unique and engaging origin story for robots that I've seen, plus it makes sense and provides cultural commentary.

The characters, including the robots, are three-dimensional. Everyone has complex motivations and the main characters definitely grow and progress with time. No one is presented as pure evil or good.

The plot is similarly complex. There's a lot going on in Amy's world, and none of it is predictable. What is the failsafe precisely and is it a good or a bad thing? Is it a natural progression that it doesn't work in Amy? What about how Amy's mother and grandmother reacted to the human world around them? Did they see accurate shortcomings or were they just malfunctioning? And what about how the various humans use the Von Neumann's? For instance, pedophiles acquire Von Neumanns and keep them young by starving them. Is this a good, harmless thing since it protects human children or have robots evolved to be far more than just a machine?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Parenting as Programming July 19, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Ashby’s von Neumann robots are lot like the vampires making the rounds...
This debut novel by Madeline Ashby asks some interesting questions about what the motivations and desires of humanoid AIs would be, and the surprising answer is remarkably similar... Read more
Published 12 days ago by SciFi Kindle
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of a synthetic person
An interesting story from the perspective of a synthetic person who starts out as a kindergartner and finishes as an adult. Read more
Published 13 days ago by David W. Kuhnle
3.0 out of 5 stars This was a fun read, even though it wasn't exactly what I'd ...
This was a fun read, even though it wasn't exactly what I'd expected. Some interesting concepts to how AI might develop based on the way humans would start it off. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Patrick Harden
1.0 out of 5 stars 0 Stars, bad story, poor use of previously established themes, don't...
Bad book, bad story, poor use of previously established themes.
Don't read this, don't read this, really don't read this
Published 2 months ago by Craig
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a serious and very well written exploration of Cyborg...
Finished this bizarre, harrowing ride of a book. It is based on feminist cyborg theory. And that is not meant to make you chuckle. Serious stuff. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed this. From the get
I enjoyed this. From the get, it jumped right into the happenings. The background stories or setting were mentioned as off-handed comments, and I enjoyed this: I really didn't... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amy Jesionowski
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining
It's a very good very entertaining reading. I enjoyed it from start to finish A++. Five more words required to finish
Published 3 months ago by William A.
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
on good
Published 3 months ago by tom
3.0 out of 5 stars Aproaching Asimov
Being compared to Asimov istough but this is an excellent start to what could be a comparable robot centered saga. Good job Madeline!
Published 4 months ago by Samuel Varco
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't recommend
The premise was interesting but in my opinion the book did not live up to the premise. I lost interest about half way through. Read more
Published 5 months ago by KSR
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More About the Author

Madeline Ashby was born in Panorama City, California in 1983. She is now a science fiction writer and strategic foresight consultant living in Toronto. Her short fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Escape Pod, and multiple anthologies. Her non-fiction has appeared at BoingBoing, WorldChanging, Creators Project, io9.com and Tor.com. As a futurist, she has worked for Intel, the Ontario government, and design and communications firms in Toronto. She loves anime, avocados, cats, Nine Inch Nails, and staying in.

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