VN The First Machine Dynasty4stars




By Madeline Ashby
Angry Robot, $12.99, 348 pages

In her new novel, Madeline Ashby confronts one of the eternal questions regarding robots: what happens when they become sentient? VN tells the story of a fully functional robot race, created by religious fundamentalists to take care of the remaining humans after the rapture. As part of their programming, these robots feature a “failsafe” that prevents them from hurting humans. It goes further than that, however, and no Vn can stand to see a human hurt without suffering pain, going into seizures, and eventually shutting down. Amy, our robot protagonist, lives with her Vn mother and her human father, where she is being allowed to grow at a human pace. When a terrible accident happens at her kindergarten graduation, Amy realizes there is a problem with her failsafe and she is forced to flee. As the story twists and turns, readers will be on the edge of their seats, wondering what will happen next – but along the way, Ashby will make the reader think about ideas of consciousness, and what it means to be human. Readers who like things to wrap up neatly and resolve all issues may be frustrated by the format of the story – you don’t get a lot of context, or really any information outside of the present moment, so readers have to figure stuff out as they go along. However, if you’re interested in ideas of robotics and humanity, or you’ve ever wondered what your robot overlord might be like, this book is for you.

Reviewed by Katie Richards

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