vN (Madeline Ashby)

vN is Madeline Ashby‘s debut novel and the first in the (planned) Machine Dynasty series.

Amy is a von Neumann machine who lives with her (human) father and her (vN) mother. She’s growing up slowly – which is unusual for vNs – and very sheltered. That is until her (vN) grandmother Portia shows up for her kindergarden graduation and attacks not only a kindergardener (which should be impossible due to the failsafe that immediately destroys vNs when they see a human hurt), but also Amy’s mother. In her desperation, Amy eats Portia and then she finds herself on the run, suddenly grown up and with Portia on a partition of her harddrive.

vN is a quick and interesting read. Amy is a great character and I pretty much loved the world-building, but there are a few kinks in the book that would have deserved a bit more straightening out.


vN is a debut novel and brings with it some of the pitfalls of just that. One of that is that Ashby is not in full control of her pacing yet. [But since it’s only a debut novel, she has every chance to learn and improve, so yay for that!] Some things happen a little too fast and there are jumps in the story where I didn’t want them to be.

The most jarring example of that was when [SPOILER] Javier and his sons rescue Amy from prison and being eaten. It remained unclear to me how they actually got to this point as the story jumped from her being plugged into a simulation to all hell breaking loose. [/SPOILER] But it was actually more than once that Ashby took these shortcuts and I wanted her to, you know, amble a bit more.

But apart from that the novel was a really good read – and a pretty fast one, too. The world and the vNs in particular were very intriguing and it is clear that Ashby has thought a lot about her world. And I loved Amy (and Javier, too).

I’ll be sure to pick up the second book when it comes out (which is soon, hopefully). I hope that with it, Ashby will have improved her pacing and will continue to explore the facets of AI in her intriguing way.

Summarising: worth checking out.


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