Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Android That Ate its Grandmother

Madeline Ashby
Angry Robot Books
448pp trade paperback
$12.99 US $14.99 CAN
448pp B-format paperback
£8.99 UK
ebook $4.89 Kindle $6.01 Nook

This book took me over two weeks to read, but please don't take that as a negative comment on the book.  It's actually a high compliment.  Life was happening at the time, and the fact that the book could hold my attention when I wasn't able to read it for literally days at a time speaks highly of the author's ability to tell a compelling story.

Normally, I don't get excited about the whole androids who act like humans subgenre, partly because I got enough of it with ST:TNG and Commander Data.   I like Data, but the whole trope gets old after a while.

Fortunately something I read in a blurb by Joe Lansdale on a novel by Christopher Golden years ago is true:  There are no boring genres, only boring writers.  Madeline Ashby is not a boring writer, and vN is anything but a boring book.  This one surprised me several times by the direction it took.

The situation is this:  in the near future a wealthy cult develops sentient androids so that those who aren't raptured will have someone to talk to, interact with, and have sex with.  That's not a setup you see everyday.

Some people marry androids and have children with them.  Both genders of androids can reproduce.  Depending on their intake, androids can grow quickly or slowly.  Amy Peterson is the android daughter of a human father and android mother who is growing slowly because her parents want to raise a "normal" child, or at least as normal as an android child can be.  (Androids have their own food since they can't eat human food.)

When androids reproduce, the offspring has all the features of the parent.  Also when androids see a human about to come to harm, they are programmed to shut down.  I'm not sure why that it.  I would think some variation of Asimov's Three Laws would come into play, but that's how it happens.

Amy's grandmother, whom she has never met when the book opens, has a flaw in her programming.  She not only doesn't shut down when a human is about to come to harm, she's capable of actively harming humans.  When Grandma shows up at Amy's kindergarten graduation, kills one of Amy's classmates, and engages Amy's mother in mortal combat, Amy doesn't shut down.  She eats her grandmother.  Literally.

This sudden intake of nutrients (remember, androids have a special diet, which can include other androids) causes Amy to go from a six year old body to that of a fully mature adult woman in only a matter of hours.  It also leads to a life on the run. 

I won't go into any more detail, since I found the path Amy's life takes from this point to be one of the strong points of the book.  This book impressed me.  Like I said earlier, it held my attention when I wasn't able to read it for days.

One of the strong points of the book is how well Ashby gets into Amy's head.  She handles the fact although Amy is now a grown woman physically, she's still a child emotionally very well.  This is where the attention the author pays to details really shows.

I said this book surprised me, and it did.  There's more to come, because the cover copy says this is volume one of a series.  I have no idea where Ashby is planning on taking the next book.  I just know I'm going to be there for it.

vN is a Featured Book at Adventures Fantastic Books.  Below is an excerpt of the first 48 pages.