If authors of outstanding novels could be compared to baseball players mashing mind-blowing homeruns, then Madeline Ashby would test positive for a high dosage of synthetic steroids and robot growth hormone. A captivating conglomeration of Stephen Spielberg’s A.I., a little mix of I, Robot, and even The Matrix seem to infiltrate their way into vN, Ashby’s first novel with Angry Robot Publishing.
A “young” von Neumann (vN) robot named Amy, lives in a healthy, happy, family environment with her human dad and robot mom but all that changes in a blink of an eye when granny decides to show up. After wholly devouring her grandmother, Amy unknowingly is infected with her crazed grandmother stuck inside her. Suddenly, innocent Amy isn’t so innocent after all and “… the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed..,” which makes Amy target number one in literally everyone’s eyes. Thrust together with an unscrupulous vN known as Javier, Amy is forcefully shoved down into the rabbit hole and has little hope of coming out unscathed.
Swivels and pivots in the story keep readers on their toes till the very end and even then there is no guessing in which direction this book could end. Though not my normal read, the ideologies for both the vN robots and the organic humans were played out admirably and realistically with varying and conflicting viewpoints.
The technique for authors known as world building can make or break a book. Another book reviewer, Shadowhawk, touches on the vital importance of the creation of a rich world in his review of The Hammer and The Blade by Paul Kemp. Ashby mirrors her very own creation, Amy, within her games she plays in the book, both of them designing vivid and fantastical creations down to the most miniscule detail with this under-appreciated skill which sometimes defines the difference between a good author and great author. The garbage dump, the destroyed city of Cascadia, and the fabled vN safe-haven of Mecha are all beautifully designed places within an extremely developed world.
The underlying tones of pedophilia and vN abuse by their organic creators play a crucial role behind otherwise ulterior motives. Also, the fact that a “global mega-church named New Eden Ministries, Inc,” was the prime investor for creating the von Neumann-type robots in an attempt to give companions to those left behind after the Rapture makes me smile inside at its paradox.
The writer inside me wishes the ending of this wonderful novel would have traversed across different paths, but in its conclusion Ashby had another, more astonishing finish you won’t see coming. It was close to a perfect 5 out of 5, but I found a few actions from my favorite character, Javier, to be contradictory to his current set path in life. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 Liams.
Here is the link to learn more about Madeline Ashby and her book, vN – The First Machine Dynasty.
(vN Robot Liam is trying to eat some synthetic keyboard food)