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(The Machine Dynasty #1)

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  2,924 ratings  ·  439 reviews
Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine, 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 pa
Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 31st 2012 by Angry Robot
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Average rating 3.44  · 
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 ·  2,924 ratings  ·  439 reviews

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Kevin Kelsey
Apr 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2017
vN is a perfectly good novel and tells an interesting story, but there is a great novel hiding just below its surface that never quite breaches. It had one of the most original origin stories for AI that I’ve ever read, and was a genuine novel of ideas, but I feel like it just never really got there. I liked it enough to want to read the second in the series, and I’m hoping that the dark ideas that were introduced here will be more fully explored there.
Sarah Elizabeth
This was a YA sci-fi story about robots.

Amy was quite a meek girl until her mother was attacked, and the sudden eating of her grandmother was a bit odd, as was how quickly Amy went from acting like a 5-year-old to acting like an adult.

The storyline in this was about Amy eating her grandmother, and ending up in jail, only to be rescued by another robot called Javier. Amy and Javier then went on the run together, but I didn’t find that all that interesting really, and the book dragged for me.

The e
Mogsy (MMOGC)
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-shelf, sci-fi
I'm gonna have a hard time reviewing this one not because the book was hard or particularly idea-dense, but because my expectations mismatched the resulting tale.

Don't get me wrong, it's still about self-replicating machines and it eventually gets to the meat of good ideas explored relatively well, but for the longest time, I just had the impression that I was reading a YA novel. Not even a very good YA novel. Family issues, growing up too fast, being on the run, hanging out with that flawed boy
Kara 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
Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
4.0 Stars
This is such a unique take on the artificial intelligence narrative. This is technically a reread because I wanted to refresh myself on the series before finishing the trilogy and I am so glad I did. This is one of those cases when I appreciated the story so much more the second time around. Yes, I originally liked it, but it was a weird story and wasn't quite what I expected.

Let me just say… this book is a little weird. Readers should not be surprised that a story that starts with a yo
Aug 02, 2012 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
Jan 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Travis Knight
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
A book with such great potential that is never reached. I am not reading the sequel.

Wish there was a 1/2 star. 2.5!
Due to certain content, I would classify vN (Machine Dynasty #1) as Adult or New Adult (age 17 to 18 & up) , not Young Adult.

Perhaps this book would have been better off as a (non-kiddie) graphic novel. I had mixed feelings--mostly negative, but a few positives, too. Readers of light sci-fi (not much actual science here) may love it far than I did.

As a straight action story with a runaround plot and some fight scenes, it sort of has its moments. But it wasn't quite for me. It felt disjointed,
Sep 23, 2012 rated it liked it
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
3.5 stars.
Robots! :) (I'm a sucker for a robot story.)

There was a lot going on in this book. Such as what are the societal implications of autonomous, self-aware artificial life with programming that prevents them from harming humans? I was immediately reminded of the Three Laws of Robotics, by Asimov. But there is so much more going on here than Asimov dealt with.

Madeline Ashby's robots, or vNs (for Von Neumann), are not like any I've read about before. These are self-repairing creations, that
Jonathan Bergeron
May 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Megan Baxter
Jul 12, 2016 rated it liked it
We are very close to letting computers/robots take over decision-making choices for us in very real ways, particularly when you think about self-driving cars. We know there will have to be an algorithm for how to avoid crashes, and if you can't, how to decide what happens. It's curious how little people are talking about Asimov's Three Rules for Robots, even as we see scare articles about cars being programmed to preferentially save the rich.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to

I need to defrag this


May 03, 2012 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
Sep 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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 intell
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Kat  Hooper
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobook
2.5 stars Originally published at FanLit.

Amy’s kindergarten graduation ceremony was going pretty well until Amy ate her grandmother on stage. Now Amy is on the run and there are lots of people who want to get their hands on her for different reasons. But Amy is only five years old and she doesn’t know where she should go or who she can trust. She’s even more freaked out when she realizes that Granny hasn’t died — she’s sharing the hardware in Amy’s head.

Jul 09, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Mikki Crisostomo
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
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
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.
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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

Other books in the series

The Machine Dynasty (3 books)
  • iD (The Machine Dynasty, #2)
  • reV (The Machine Dynasty, #3)

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“She belongs with me, not to me.” 3 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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