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vN (First Machine Dynasty) Paperback – July 31, 2012


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Product Details

  • Series: First Machine Dynasty (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Angry Robot (July 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857662627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857662620
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

“If you have been missing the kind of thought-provoking-yet-exciting stories about artificial creatures that only come along once in a while, vN is well worth grabbing. It's disturbing and sometimes upsetting — but the ending is a giant insane weird thrill that makes the whole thing pay off.”
—Charlie Jane Andres for io9.com

"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 fuses cyberpunk with urban fantasy to produce something wholly new.  Thre's a heavy kicker in every chapter.  Zombie robots, vampire robots, robots as strange and gnarly as human beings.  A page-turning treat."- Rudy Rucker, author of the WARE TETRALOGY

"Ashby's debut novel is brimming with ideas..."
-SFX Magazine


vN is a thrilling adventure story with a well-developed cast of both humans and vNs, which challenges the meaning of being a person without ever being preachy about it.”
-Steve Jones, Terror Tree

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 honors 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. She has been published in Tesseracts, Flurb, Nature, Escape Pod and elsewhere. Currently, she works as a strategic foresight consultant in Toronto.

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.

Customer Reviews

We then switch to Amy for most of the remainder of the book.
Amazon Customer
I really think the story is very unique and the characters were super interesting; however, the book was pretty confusing at times.
Jessica Agsalda
I kept reading hoping something would come along to tie it all together but what I got is a Deus Ex Machina from the sea.
Dewey M Whitley IV

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 24, 2012
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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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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By noappliances on 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Eric J. Juneau on 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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