I first saw this on the Angry Robot website and, as usual with most of my book picks, fell in love with the cover. I was a little put off by the blurb as technical SF can go right over my idiot brain. However, the copy of vN I got my mitts on was waiting for me on the 'just in' shelf in the library, calling my name ever so seductively.
Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine, a self-replicating humanoid robot.
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 her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.
Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade’s history – like the fact that the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed… Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her.
I was so enchanted by Ashby's world that I had to stop myself from devouring this book, and savour each page. The momentum of vN is relentless, only pausing for a few pages before Amy is flung in another direction in her quest to rescue her mother and rid her own body of the remnants of her grandmother. Ashby certainly has a knack for creating intriguing characters, who felt as if they didn't belong to a debut novel but had a whole series behind them. I never felt like an idiot either, as Amy herself is learning about her 'clade' having only just 'grown up' and is the perfect voice through which I could learn about the complexities of life as a von Neumann robot.
I was sorely tempted to never return vN to the library. However, the overriding need for other people to read, and hopefully enjoy, this fantastic book won out in the end. If you have the time, search this extraordinary debut out. I promise you won't be let down.