Angry Robot, p/b, £7.99
Reviewed by Carl Barker
When attempting to construct a book in an already well-established genre, it can be argued that a writer needs to either create something new and engaging, or to reiterate something old very well. Madeline Ashby may well have achieved both with this, her debut novel.
vN takes many of the familiar trappings and plot strands of the artificial intelligence sub-genre and succinctly weaves them into a tightly coiled narrative which evolves at break-neck pace. Like all good science-fiction, it’s not so much what happens that’s important, but rather the questions that it asks when it does.
Littered with numerous pop-culture and literary references, from the obvious (Dick, Asimov, Terminator 2, The Matrix) to the more unexpected (The Prisoner), Ashby’s story follows the fate of Amy, an immature humanoid android, on the run since she ate her grandmother alive in defence of her mother. This initial act of absorbing her grandmother’s consciousness provides a wonderful platform for ongoing discussions about Amy’s state of mind, and her constant struggle to prevent her aggressively violent granny from overriding her core systems is one of the more organic themes grafted onto the novel’s metal endoskeleton.
With an excellent grasp of her subject matter and much to say within the genre, Ashby looks set to become one of the most important new voices in this particular branch of SF, and I for one shall be awaiting her next book with great interest. Download to your system at the earliest opportunity.