Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Angry Robot
UK Release date: August 2012
Genre: Science fiction
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review
Amy is a vN, a von Neumann humanoid robot able to self replicate. With a human father and humanoid mother, Amy has grown up in a mixed organic/synthetic family, kept safe at home and school from other children in case their fighting might cause her failsafe to kick in and her memory to shutdown. But when Amy's mother is attacked by her grandmother, her instinct is to protect her mother - and she eats her grandmother. Now with a faulty failsafe and her grandmother piggy backing inside her, Amy is being hunted down and must find a way to escape.
I will warn you now, vN isn't a light read. Unless of course you eat technical science for breakfast. I really had to concentrate on the story, and this was for two reasons. Firstly the science fiction elements were fairly complex and technical, to my brain anyway, and I had to focus to understand the language used to describe Amy's physical makeup and artificial intelligence. Secondly vN was constantly presenting thought provoking situations, whether it was about what makes someone human, where do morals and ethics end and robotics begin, or how much can humanoid robots be aware, conscious or considered human.
I felt frustrated that humanoids like Amy weren't given any of the rights that humans were, because they had been programmed to act certain ways. There was a massive manhunt for Amy after she attacked and ate her grandmother, despite the fact that it was to protect another humanoid. vNs could be used for pedophilia, rape, or torture and they would endure it with a smile because their programming told them to enjoy human's company and never to hurt them in return. Can you argue that it's ok to do these things just because they aren't fully human and are built of silicon? For me it felt very creepy to see young vN children being kept by grown men for indecent sexual acts. It was situations like these that kept challenging my moral and ethical values.
Amy was such a gentle and likeable character. Despite being an artificially intelligent humanoid, she felt so real and human. Her compassion and caring for Javier's baby was unexpected but intriguing. I loved the fact that she was able to take on key features of others she ate and changed as a character throughout the book. Granny was scary, violent, motivated, singleminded and squatting inside Amy's consciousness like an artificial toad. Her thoughts interrupted Amy's own thoughts and at times she would completely take over Amy and wreak havoc. The huge difference between Amy and Granny was fascinating, and I loved seeing Granny take charge and go on a violent spree.
Javier really surprised me. The fact that he was built to breed and reiterate and then would just leave his children to grow up on their own, made me initially think he would be unreliable and selfish. But he kept surprising me throughout the story, coming back to help Amy and changing his own behaviour because of her.
vN digs deep into the human and AI psyche, and is a thoroughly thought provoking read.
Don't forgot to drop by tomorrow to read my interview with Madeline Ashby!!