vN: The First Machine Dynasty

vN: The First Machine Dynasty

3.5 17
by Madeline Ashby

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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

…  See more details below


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...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Self-replicating vN (von Neumann) humanoids face unique dilemmas in debut novelist Ashby’s robot family drama. Amy, the synthetic daughter of a mixed human/synthetic couple, is surprised at kindergarten graduation by her mother’s mother, Portia, who kills a human child despite her embedded fail-safe. Amy, who has been starved to keep her development human-paced, devours Portia and immediately grows to adult size. Hunted as a fugitive, she must also contend with a copy of Portia still running in her thoughts. Amy dodges bounty hunters with Javier, another fugitive synthetic with family problems (he’s a serial reproducer who abandons fast-grown offspring), and seeks to free her jailed parents and reach the legendary humanoid sanctuary of Mecha. Ashby manages to create real sympathy for her synthetics, but fails to detail her near-future landscape (a Pacific Northwest depopulated by an enormous earthquake) with enough distractions to cover the paucity of human characters. Agent: Monica Pacheco, Anne McDermid Associates. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"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

"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

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Product Details

Watkins Media
Publication date:
Machine Dynasty Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.62(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.03(d)

Meet 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.

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vN 3.5 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 17 reviews.
Mother_Gamer_Writer More than 1 year ago
vN is a very interesting, and fresh take on science fiction. At least it was for me, you know the woman who loves to watch Star Trek, Doctor Who, and tons of sci-fi movies. But let me tell you a bit more about the book before I give you my complete honest opinion and reaction. First off, vN is short for von Neumann, which is essentially a robot with artificial intelligence. Here is the thing. They were originally created to mimic humans for all sorts of wonderful things. They made models that could be nurses, field workers, really you name it. Each model was created with a failsafe so that they would never turn on the human population. In fact, seeing a human hurt would cause pain to the vN. That was until the world met Amy. A small vN that her mother had iterated with her human father. They had chosen to raise her slowly, unlike most robots who could complete their growth within a year. Her parents also chose to raise her around more humans than those of her kind. But they never told her why or more so her mother never told her why. At her kindergarten graduation Amy watched as her grandmother attacked and killed a friend. An impossible feat according to the software and fail-safe designers, but Portia had done it, and shown no remorse as she continued to pursue Amy’s mother. Without much thought, and an increasing hunger drive, Amy consumed her grandmother. It would not be the end of granny, no she would live inside of her, and every so often she would rear her destructive head, and take control of Amy’s body. After being caught, Amy meets Javier who was arrested for iterating too many vN. He is tough, head strong, and completely amused at how human this girl seems to be. When she cries it seems real, not her fail-safe kicking in or her hard drive trying to load the correct response. While on the run he iterates his 13th child, and time after time he wants to leave him behind when they get into a heap of trouble, but Amy refuses. How can someone who is a vN, and ate her own grandmother have such compassion and love? Follow along and find out! Wow… This is my first ever 5 controller review on science fiction. Perhaps it was the stellar writing, or the in-depth story the writer painted. On the other hand it could just be completely and utterly fascinating. Especially when reading the story with human eyes. I often wonder how the world would react if we had something like vN. Could we find them capable of love and trust? I found myself wondering how I would react if I were in Amy’s fathers shoes, or the shoes of one of the many doctors who created and continued to develop the vN technology. The whole kit n’ caboodle was fascinating to say the least. This book does have a lot of darker elements. One in particular is the reason these robots were actually created, and as much as it disgusts me I will share it for anyone sensitive. Essentially they were made, and often used, to satisfy pedophile urges. This was needed to tell the story, and there are no graphic details given, but I felt it needed to be put out there as a forewarning. There is also mention of death, theft, violence, and other things. So it’s best read by the 18+ crowd. BUT! It is also filled with adventure, suspense, romance, friendship, and the essence of family. I’m still not an expert on this genre, but I fell in love with Amy, the naive, sweet, vN who had her world turned upside down. All of this because her fail-safe failed… read it folks, just read it! Originally Reviewed At:Mother/Gamer/Writer Reviewer: Heather
cwreynolds More than 1 year ago
Good book. The writing and the story definitely sucks you in and makes it hard to put the book down. It was definitely nice to see modern coverage of some of the themes that Philip K Dick made famous. There were a couple of portions where the story jumped and I thought I had missed something causing me to go back and reread the previous sections. Additionally, some parts of the story seemed to take a slipstream approach. Overall, it is a good book that I would recommend.
Bastett More than 1 year ago
This was a book club book and if it wasn't for the club I probably wouldn't have read it. Very good book. The first part of the book was slow but the rest of the book was amazing! Interesting concept with a great moral message.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A nice take on the classic sentient robot story.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms. Ashby has created a truly sympathetic, synthetic heroine!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Ashby introduces and draws out her characters very well, and the pacing is good. Considering that this isn't a very long book, a great deal of information and concept was covered in a very short space, and the crescendo to the climax didn't seem at all forced.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you're not depressed enough, this book should do the job.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be boring, confusing, and unengaging. The characters were weakly developed--I never cared about any of them (couldn't we at least have had a nice dog to lend some life to the story?). The scenes jumped about with little continuity. That the book was poorly written was too bad because Madeline clearly had some wonderful ideas. If only she could have co-authored with a writer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To shoot the bastard
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*he sighs*
Culturedropout More than 1 year ago
Check back with me in a couple of months.