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vN (The Machine Dynasty #1)

3.42  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,947 Ratings  ·  315 Reviews
Amy Peterson is a self-replicating humanoid robot.

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, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.

Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory d
ebook, 416 pages
Published July 31st 2012 by Angry Robot (first published January 1st 2012)
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Mar 28, 2016 Carmen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Amy is five years old. At her kindergarten graduation, her grandmother shows up. Amy has never met her grandmother, and now she knows why. Her grandmother jumps on stage, grabs a little boy, and flings him to his death. When Amy's mother, Charlotte, tries to stop her, she starts beating Charlotte viciously.

Amy does the only thing she can think of. She runs right up to her grandma, opens her mouth wide, and takes a big bite out of her. Then she keeps eating and eating and eating until there's not
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

While reading vN, I was frequently reminded of a mission statement I saw once on Angry Robot’s website – to publish the best in modern adult genre fiction, or in their words, “SF, F and WTF?!” This book certainly falls mostly in the first category, but also possesses a strong generous splash of the third.

At the heart of vN is a story about choice and independence in synthetic humans/artificial intelligences which in itself
Sep 08, 2012 Katy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars - Bouncing between 3 and 4.

WARNING: vN is definitely not for the weak stomach, and it's not normally my type of book, but for some reason, I just had a sick, twisted desire to read such a weird book. (And I had to pick an edition because I promised a certain someone that the cover will not appear on my newsfeed. :P)


This book took me on a crazy ride. But then again, I was prepared for it to be a strange story after reading the summary to find out that this robot has eaten her g
Ben Babcock
The robot apocalypse pops up all the time in science fiction, and with good reason. Humans are generally bad at getting along with each other; sharing this planet with intelligent life of an entirely different variety would probably not go down well. Isaac Asimov, of course, famously developed three laws of robotics that were designed to avoid android armageddon. All of them were designed to sanctify human life, to make it inviolable in the eyes of robotkind. Then, Asimov proceeded to demonstrat ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 18, 2013 Kyle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
If I was a young woman, this might strike a chord. So much of scifi is metaphor; ways of discussing hard topics and new ideas. So a book about being a little girl, transitioning suddenly to adulthood, and the loving/furious relationship women may have with their mother is rich ground.

Truly great work makes the protagonist's journey applicable to whomever the reader is. This just provoked a strong secondhand embarrassment wince on behalf of the writer.

Everything is fundamentally weak: characters
Travis Knight
Sep 06, 2013 Travis Knight rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of cyberpunk, androids, and road trip lit
When I saw Madeline Ashby's vN on Angry Robot’s list of up-coming books to review, I admit to being captivated initially by the title itself. I didn’t make the connection to the “von Neumann” idea until I read the blurb, because in general robot fiction doesn't interest me. But recently, I’ve been getting into some of the best sci-fi movies from the 1970’s and 1980’s, and guess what? Robots. From Alien to Blade Runner and beyond, there are android companions everywhere. Some of them are murderou ...more
What an interesting book! Although fantasy will always be my first love, I'm trying to become more familiar with sci-fi themes.

For example, I had never heard of a von Neumann machine. It's an important point to know before going into this book as it's never really stated. Von Neumann machines are a sci-fi idea that originated in lectures from the late 1940s given by John von Neumann. He postulated about a robot that self-replicates with materials taken from its environment. Cylons are considered
Jonathan Bergeron
May 25, 2015 Jonathan Bergeron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the library. I do wish authors made money on each time the book was checked out, then again there wouldn't be libraries if that was the deal with publishers. The reason why I love libraries is by wandering the aisles looking for that science fiction sticker (the St. Petersburg Library System puts "Science Fiction" stickers on the spines of sci-fi books) I come across gems every now and then. First it was Fortune's Pawn now it's vN.

If you're looking for military or A LOT of fighting, then
Aug 17, 2012 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
I admit it: this low rating is mostly due to reader failure. I'm just not a science-fiction person, when it comes right down to it. I much prefer drama with a sci-fi overlay (a la Doctor Who and The Saga of Seven Suns), and vN is more sci-fi with a sci-fi overlay. Ashby does a great job describing the world and the science--I was never lost, could easily imagine everything, and the laws and rules of her world make sense. It's sci-fi, but not crazy hard sci-fi.

That said, the most problematic issu
Jul 28, 2012 Mieneke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, 2012

I've started and restarted this review about a half-dozen times. Not because I don't have anything to say about vN, because I assuredly do – when do I not? – but rather because I don't know where to start. There is so much to say about vN, from the characters to the basic premise, to the writing and the power of the story, it's hard to begin. So I'll jump in at the shallow end, my shallow end, and comment on the gorgeous cover. I'd already read the blurb for vN and I thought it sounded rather i
Jan 07, 2013 Shaheen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reminiscent of Asimov but entirely new in the way it handles the idea of intelligent, artificial life, vN explores the lives future synthetic beings can expect to live. Like Asimov’s robots, Ashby’s vN (von-Neumann humanoid robots) are subject to a failsafe: witnessing human pain can result in sever malfunctions, or death. And like Asimov, Ashby shows us how terrible this fate can be.

After a violent attack at Amy’s kindergarten graduation at the hands of her grandmother, whom she eats in defence
Amy tiene 5 años y va al kinder, se pasa el día jugando con sus juguetes, imaginando ciudades y casas, jugando con su padre Jake y a también con su madre Charlotte, tiene un compañero de clases que está enamorado de ella (como se puede estar en el kinder) y una maestra que se preocupa por la alimentación de Amy, y también, Amy es un vN, un androide von Neumann al igual que su madre, de hecho es igual que su madre (y su abuela, y quien vino antes), puesto que son replicantes.

La idea de androides
Lex (Fastidious Reader)
Um... I really don't know what to say about this book. It's not that I don't like it but I don't love it either. Somewhere in between that. I guess, it's an okay book for me.

As I have mentioned before, I'm a Computer Engineering graduate but still some of the words are lost to me and swallowing me whole. I don't even remember completely the scenes that happened. It's like a wind that just run past me, I think. It's really a weird book with all the eating your granny and then there's the weird wa
I was so excited about Madeline Ashby's vN when I first read the short story, The Education of Junior Number 12 at back in Christmas. The short story provides a good foundation to the world of vN and I highly recommend you to read it before the book as it gives you a better insight into the character of Javier.

Like the androids in Spielberg's A.I., the Von Neumann machines (vN for short) are used for pretty much everything that you can imagine. Some people tru
Sep 14, 2012 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amy pinched the skin of her arms. If you couldn’t brag in the brig, where could you? “I’ve got fractal design memory in here. Even if I’m cut up, my body remembers how to repair itself perfectly. I’ll come back in one piece, no matter what.”

“Oh, believe me, dollface, I know. I’ve seen it happen. You put some vN shrapnel in the right culture, and it grows right back. Like cancer.” He snorted. “But whether what grows back is actually you? With all the memories, and all the adaptations? That’s like
Sep 10, 2012 Diayll rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Science Fiction Fans 18+
Shelves: read-by-heather
Originally Reviewed At:Mother/Gamer/Writer
Rating: 5 out of 5 Controllers
Review Source: Publisher for Honest Review
Reviewer: Heather

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 intelli
Impossible to put down. It's been ages since I've picked up an honest-to-goodness sci-fi book with actual robots in it, and this is a sweet and clever return. It's amazingly heartfelt, for a story about artificial human beings, but it never moralizes and makes you feel like you just sat through a Sunday school lesson about humanity. "Show, don't tell" is the rule and this book does it well, especially considering the vast amount of backstory relevant to the setting.

In an age where robotics have
Jun 08, 2015 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
Welp, the cat just deleted the paragraph I had written, but basically, a very well-done novel about a future with both humans and humanoid robots that can self-replicate. I loved the added touch of there being multiple corporations/individuals creating their own robot prototypes with different drives, etc. For example, the von Neumann androids that form the backbone of the narrative were originally created by a religious cult and are all programmed to care for humans in need, leading them to (us ...more
May 13, 2015 Kededra rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm bouncing between 2 and 3 stars. The author did an excellent job of building a world that readers could visualize and the story itself was interesting. However, the story gets bogged down by all the technical jargon. I wouldn't recommend it to those that don't have the slightest interest in sci-fi.
Oct 07, 2015 Jacqie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 10, 2012 Graham rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Some interesting ideas, and capably written, but it just wasn't engaging. The plot felt meandering, as though there were no second or third act planned. Instead, we're invited to stay and explore this world Ms. Ashby has constructed and little else. That may work for other media, but if I find myself scratching my head 65% through the book, wondering what the point to any of this is (beyond flowery world-building), something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
SciFi Kindle
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 to what their human creators seek. Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of robo-happiness looks much the same as the familiar goals, with some cosmetic differences in the health & diet departments. Ashby’s von Neumann robots are lot like the vampires making the rounds in a lot of YA fiction these days: Super-powered, bea ...more
Oct 01, 2013 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, scifi, series, ai
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 so
It wasn't when the idea was introduced of a girl who was starved in order to imitate the process of a growing human child. Or even when she met a pedophile who did this to his "wife."

It wasn't until Amy met Rory (so to speak), the robot who developed her diet plan, and she thought to herself, "Each of Rory's ro-bento pings maintained this same level of cheeriness and delight, as though starving yourself was just the most fun thing in the world and you should be happy to do it for your parents.
C.W. Reynolds
Aug 03, 2012 C.W. Reynolds rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pkd
vN: The First Machine Dynasty is a good book. I would give it a 4 out of 5 star rating. Since this book has been on my reading wish list ever since I first read Charlie Jane Anders’ io9 review of it back in May, I wanted it to be a great book. However, there were a couple of issues that made it slightly less.

The good: The writing and the story sucks you in and makes it hard to put down. The book tackles some ideas and themes that Philip K. Dick made famous: cybernetics, self-aware machines, and
Jan 07, 2013 Shara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The premise: ganked from 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 t
Ben Trafford
Aug 14, 2012 Ben Trafford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the best sci-fi I've read since before Neal Stephenson crawled in his navel post-The Diamond Age. And here's why:

Things actually happen. So much modern sci-fi is reaching for literary merit and the exploration of themes that it ends up being impenetrable crap. Not so Ashby's first novel, vN. It manages to accomplish three things very well:

1 - It actually posits a scientifically realistic future.
2 - It asks a lot of very hard ethical questions.

The character
First I want to say that I hate the cover of this book. It's terrible and I wish it was better because the book is better.

I really enjoyed the universe in this book. Robots are awesome in general, and I especially like reading about AI interacting with humans. The whole deal with the failsafe and free will was really fascinating. This is one of those books where I might forget what happened in the story but I'll be thinking about the universe it happened in for a long time. What does it mean to
Mar 31, 2014 Tez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I said it at the time, and I stand by it: BEST PROLOGUE EVER! The author's experience with strategic foresight shines through in the richly detailed world-building, and the carefully constructed characters - both synthetic and organic, and their interactions. It's fascinating, heartbreaking, and all-out entertaining...until the epilogue, which is bonkers, but not in a way that works for me. (view spoiler) Nevertheless, vN is a must-read!
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Is this anything like Rudy Ruckers wetware series? 1 8 Jun 08, 2012 10:02AM  
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Madeline Ashby is a science fiction writer and strategic foresight consultant living in Toronto. She has been writing fiction since she was about thirteen years old. (Before that, she recited all her stories aloud, with funny voices and everything.) Her fiction has appeared in Nature, Tesseracts, Escape Pod, FLURB, the Shine Anthology, and elsewhere. Her non-fiction has appeared at, ...more
More about Madeline Ashby...

Other Books in the Series

The Machine Dynasty (3 books)
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“She belongs with me, not to me.” 4 likes
“Charlotte leveled him with a glare the likes of which he had never seen in synthetic women. It seemed to penetrate his every cell, as though she were watching him decay one picosecond at a time” 3 likes
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