vN by Madeline Ashby


I first came across this one on one of my favorite web sites, i09. It is an awesome site and honestly if you only checked out that site you could cover a lot of ground. Anyways…Every now and then they post articles about new sifi books that are coming out. This was one of the ones they previewed. Once I saw the cover art I was immediately interested in the book. Then I found that it was about robots and artificial intelligence I knew I was going to have to check it out.

Ashby is a new writer who has burst on the scene. vN is her first novel in a series called the The Machine Dynasty series. I have bought the second called iD, but obviously have not read it yet. From her website she seems to write a lot of blog posts about technology and the future, I think her and myself would get along just fine. She has worked on so many different projects dealing with technology and how it is affecting us that it is impossible to name them all. She seems like a very bright woman and has written quite a few short stories as well. On her website there are links to those short stories if you are interested.

This one starts out with a seemingly normal family that consist of a human father, a vN (as they are called in the book, or android, mother and they vN daughter Amy. All vN have a failsafe where if they are in the presence of a human who is hurt or killed they immediately shut down. In this sort of dystopian society mixed families are shunned to a degree. Despite everything Amy is about to graduate kindergarten just like any normal kid would. During the ceremony Amy’s grandmother shows up, and it is anything but a happy reunion. She kills one of the children graduating, and the most bizarre part is that neither Amy’s failsafe her mothers, or grandmothers activate. Amy saves everyone from her grandmother by ripping her to shreds and eating what is left of her mechanical body. While doing so she ingests bits of code from her grandmother. In the wake of the attack Amy escapes and is now a wanted criminal. She is on the run and trying to figure out the world, and how she is so different from other vN. Many people are after her for a variety of reasons and it going to take everything she has to survive.

In my opening paragraph I talked about how the first time I came across this one was on the website i09, I later found it on Amazon and it had pretty solid reviews so I was sure that I would like it, so sure in fact that I when ahead and purchased the sequel, iD. I figured I would immediately like this series and want to read them both. However, after much trial and deliberation I have absolutely no desire to read any other novel in this series.

I felt overall the characters and the story were decent enough to warrant someone to read the novel. But honestly I felt like the book was missing so many details and scene descriptions that it made for a very long and confusing read. I would be reading a certain scene and then out of nowhere something would get thrown in that was never mentioned. I felt a large portion of this book was near impossible to follow. Honestly I felt like I was reading one of my own short stories as it was very scatterbrained and seemed to jump from one thought to the next with little to no transition. It felt like a very armature writer was wringing this book. I say that because of, in my opinion, of the very noticeable lack of description of what was going on. I felt there was a lot that was left out of scenes and transitions.

There are also some parts of the book especially toward the end where there are ten or more pages of what I felt where just random incoherent thoughts thrown into the book that made almost no sense. I had no idea what the author was talking about or what they had in any way to do with the story. The thing that sucks about this one was that I was excited to start reading it and wanted so bad to like it. I really did, I was ready for a fun exciting and thrilling sifi ride. About 100 or so pages in my excitement started to crumble and toward the middle I was seriously in doubts of where the story was going, believe it or not I even though about putting the book down. But knowing there was a sequel I was hoping that the ending was going to tie everything together and start something awesome that would spill over into the others in the series. I feel really let down by this one, and cannot see why i09 was so enthusiastic about this one.

However, with all that being said, there are some interesting things that I did like about the story. The way Amy is different from the other vN is pretty cool, but not that uncommon as I felt it was very similar to the story in I Robot with Will Smith. I think where this one differs is it focuses a lot more on the emotional and feelings of the vN. That is something that is worth exploring as how do you program a robot to have emotions? That is what I liked about the story as it explores these ideas as Amy is the first and only vN to love and have real feelings that seem to go against her original programming. It is a reminder of how even things that we create may evolve and change over time.

There is also the exploration of growing up and what it would be like to live in this world. This is briefly explained and I felt should have been delved into deeper as it could have made the story better. The author did a decent job of showing what the rest of the world is like in the story. For all the negatives I have to say about this book I did enjoy some of the questions I took away after reading it, in fact I have had some similar thoughts on how an artificial intelligence would develop and age over time. So that, I felt, was pretty interesting. But when you factor in everything else I don’t know “if the juice is worth the squeeze” as they say.

I really cannot recommend this one. I felt there was just too much missing for there to be a good story. There seemed to be chunks of transitions missing along with random soliloquies that make little sense in any way. Factoring all that together I was very disappointed in the book and mad at myself for going ahead and buying the second in the series, lesson learned I suppose. Unless you have some crazy desire that you want to read this one, I recommend that you steer clear and spend your time and money elsewhere. There are plenty of other books in this category that are much better. I am left wondering how there are so many positive reviews on Amazon?


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