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Vn Paperback – July 31, 2012
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- 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..."
“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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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?Read more ›
Robots in Madeline Ashby's near-future world are called "vN" after John von Neumann, the Jewish-Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, and all-around genius who, among other things, laid the groundwork for virtually all computers in use today (they're called "von Neumann machines" for a reason) and also developed a theory of self-replicating machines, which, by the way, the vN are. Self-replicating, that is. Given enough "food" -- plastic, iron, and other minerals -- they not only grow like organic beings, they also reproduce through a form of asexual budding. It's a cool idea, though Ashby never explains how or whether the vN's self-replication mechanism is based on von Neumann's theory.
Once the vN technology goes to market, vNs appear everywhere in roles such as laborer, servitor, and, inevitably, prostitute. But vNs are smart, self-aware, learning machines with the capacity to detect, understand, and even feel -- or at least simulate -- human emotion. They become girlfriends and boyfriends and husbands and wives of humans, and, when vNs "iterate" (reproduce), their "children" become family members. The children can even look like human children as long as they're kept on a near-starvation diet. One of those children is Amy, a kindergartner whose vN mother and human father struggle to give a normal, suburban, middle-class, human upbringing.
This does not turn out as well as hoped. Something does go very wrong when an out-of-control robot kills a human child.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Loved the exploration of self awareness and parenting as a kind of programming. Got lost in a few of the transition sequences, but it was minor.Published 1 month ago by Bryan Zug
An interesting look at an imaginary future world of self-replicating intelligent robots. The story was a little confusing at times and the characters a bit difficult to identify... Read morePublished 2 months ago by W. L. Murray
A young von Neumann machine--a self-replicating humanoid robot--is ripped from her tranquil domestic life after she eats her grandmother. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Juushika
I could not get through this book. It's more of a YA novel without enough depth for me in terms of character. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
The novel breaks no new ground, all the tropes have been done before.Published 6 months ago by Shannon Kelleher
Ashby somehow makes me care about ALL the characters, from the heroine to the villain to the bit players. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Paul ACCIAVATTI
Gift to husband. Expected it to be a little higher level reading. Read late to young adultPublished 7 months ago by W. Hagan
Actually I REALLY liked this book, but I don't think it is one that I can give 5 stars. Not quite good enough, but I read it to the end.Published 8 months ago by ASH70
The robots are way too human and for whatever reason that annoys me.Published 14 months ago by Johnny