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vN

The First Machine Dynasty
Narrated by: Christina Traister
Series: Machine Dynasty, Book 1
Length: 10 hrs and 26 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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 them, young Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.

Now she’s on the run, carrying her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive. She’s growing quickly, and learning too. Like the fact that in her, and her alone, the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has stopped working… Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her.

©2012 Madeline Ashby (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“Ashby’s debut 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)
"vN might just be the most piercing interrogation of humanoid AI since Asimov kicked it all off with the Three Laws.” (Peter Watts)

What members say

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for JTF
  • JTF
  • 22-05-2014

An Imaginative Novel of Robots, Control & Chaos

A few things to know about Ms. Ashby - she's a flippin' genius, a marvelous storyteller and she's willing to pursue her ideas and stories without reference to niceties. While I think it would be fair to say she's a liberal feminist, she's way not PC. She takes it all head-on, sensibilities be hanged. She reminds me of a liberal Ayn Rand with a few important differences besides ideology - she knows how to edit, if she explores the same or similar themes, she does so in interesting and new ways; Ms. Rand tended to rehash with slight variations. Also, her are subservient to the story, not the other way around. vN explores themes tied to sentient androids and their relations to humans other vN (she invokes something similar to Asimov's 3 laws of robotics), unique issues tied to self-replicating androids (hence the Von Neumann machine reference) and a world in which cataclysmic events have destabilized our world (does she have a thing against Seattle?). "An iteration is not a copy, it is simply the next version." Ashby, Madeline (2012-07-31). vN (First Machine Dynasty) (Kindle Location 3651). Osprey Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Prior to dipping my toes below the spoiler line, however, I also want to commend Christina Traister's narration. As I typically do, I went between the Kindle and Audible versions relying on Whispersync for Voice to keep me on track. I would think this book would be a bit of a challenge to narrate. Amy needs to be young whilst quickly becoming a full, somewhat jaded woman. Javier is a Hispanic-based model. Portia is wacked. The terminology is a bit eclectic, to wit "...but her spirit was as strong as the titanium sheathing her graphene coral bones, her personal integrity as impermeable as the silicone skin overlaying the polymerdoped memristors embedded there, her wit as quick as the carbon aerogel currents wafting through and shaping the musculature of her body." Say that fives times fast. Ms. Traister handles it all with aplomb. Her phrasing and pacing are spot on. Her characters are believable and the tone of her voice matches them and their context. She is easy to understand. Lovely work. Seriously good reads; I highly recommend both books (but start with vN).

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • SciFi Kindle
  • 11-08-2014

Pinocchio on the run

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, beautiful versions of people who happen to eat something unusual, but share all our emotions and dramas. Here, I was a bit disappointed, and saw potential for some wildly interesting outlook that superimposes inarguable machine logic on top of everyday life. The closest thing here was the universally in-built “failsafe” directive that the vN possess which compels them to obey and cherish humans, (their garlic/sunlight/stake/holy water Achilles’ heel). The central conflict of the story arrises from, naturally, the appearance of a vN who can willfully ignore her failsafe. Like many of those YA ‘paranormal romance’ stories, there is a blossoming romance in the works, and an authoritarian regime eager to snuff it all out. The first person perspective brought to mind Charles Stross’ “Saturn’s Children”, which also featured a female humanoid robot protagonist, and a parallel mechanism to the failsafe whereby robots are compelled to obey all humans completely and lovingly.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • alison
  • 09-01-2014

A strange book

Would you try another book from Madeline Ashby and/or Christina Traister?

Maybe

Would you ever listen to anything by Madeline Ashby again?

Maybe

Which character – as performed by Christina Traister – was your favorite?

Didn't have one

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I was initially intrigued by the uniqueness, strangeness, quirkyness of this book. Because of this, I stuck with it to the end. But I am a bit of a sci-fi/fantasy geek, so I am sure that most people would bail before the end.

Any additional comments?

The weirdness was just ok. But the ending, the last 2 chapters, was just tooo strange and annoyed me - I felt that I had wasted my time.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Moranda Media
  • 24-01-2014

THIS IS IT.

Would you listen to vN again? Why?

no because i rember it. but maybe years after now

Who was your favorite character and why?

they all are good. amy is the main. good and crazy AI

Which scene was your favorite?

humm idk alot of them

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

yea but i had to sleeep eat and work and drive.

Any additional comments?

you will like this book. if you like sifi and ai stuff

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Katya A
  • 04-03-2013

Not your average 'Pinocchio' AI Sci-Fi

Sci-Fi genre is full of stories about self-aware artificial intelligence and their place in the human world. This book is off the beaten 'But I'm a real boy (girl)' path. Don't expect dwelling on AI vs Humans ethical questions, they are there but not as a centerpiece of the story, it never moralizes and makes you feel like you just sat through a Sunday school lesson about humanity.

vN is about evolution of artificial 'life', designed as help and entertainment, constrained by Asimov's Laws of Robotics and programmed limits to morality. They reproduce by iteration, which is as much of self-replicating as human children are replicas of their parents. Ultimately, that’s the moral of the story – we are more than we’re made to be and that restrictions, limitations and expectations will not in the end hold us back. The same goes for robots.

The writing is tight, the characters likable, and the story is compelling. The book is is fairly low on technobabble, and it’s character-driven as well as idea-driven.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • josh
  • 11-10-2019

Sloppy fruit salad of ideas.

the story needs structure and reason. it wasn't horrible. just needlessly confusing.
the cool parts lack inspiration.

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  • Bryan J. Schaefer
  • 15-07-2019

An exploration of sentience and AI emotions

vN is a great exploration of what AI existance could be like from the perspective of the AI. How docthey grow, interact with the world, humans, and other robots is given a unique take in the world this author builds.

in a genre repleat with recycled content, vN does a great job of being original, entertaining, and thought provoking. Gender, sexuality, and individuality are all explored in the midst of an action story.

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  • T. J. Ryan
  • 24-04-2019

A good start and a good end but...

I was unfamiliar with this offer before beginning this book and I'm not sure if that's a positive or negative. The book starts out strong, setting the tone of the world using character that you would follow for the rest of the book, and at the end it's very strong it's introduced the world it sets things up for the future of the series and universe but unfortunately in the middle it loses track of where it wants to go, as there is meandering, both literal and figurative, as the characters wander to various places that really don't end up mattering and are described in overabundant detail despite the fact that the place is gone very quickly and never returned to. It meanders in terms of dialogue and in terms of description as well, as the characters have discussions that seem to circle about and dead-end. I enjoyed the book but I'm not sure if it needs more editing or if it's simply trying to do too much world building of places that will be returned to or referenced in future volumes that just don't matter enough here.

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  • Frank West
  • 24-06-2017

Too predictable

The humans were written terribly and so were the androids, at times it felt like the author forgot she was writing for androids. I was expecting way more on what consciousness met in their universe and I felt like it wasn't explored enough. Most of the time I found this book fairly uninteresting, but then again this probably isn't my brand of sci fi. I wish I could give more constructive feed back, sorry for the vagueness.

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  • Derek
  • 23-06-2016

loved it. fascinating science fiction.

loved it. real SF with fun characters. i loved amy and javier. i also loved the layered ethical metaphors.

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  • Tatiana
  • 09-02-2013

Entertaining, but could've been more.

Vaguely reminded me of Stephen Fine's "Molly Dear: The Autobiography of an Android" in the beginning, but gets better and to be its own thing along the way.



Was entertaining enough for a story that, with a mild degree of tongue in cheek, could be described as "a 'quiverfull' guy and a bleeding heart girl battle a strong, separatist woman."



Liked the voice talent.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful