the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for May 2012

vN by Madeline Ashby

published July 2012 from Angry Robot Books

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher









I could so easily start every paragraph of this review with “but the best part of the book was. . .” because are just so many incredible aspects of this book – the characters and their lives, the surprising way this future came to be,  the dark subtexts, and the easy to understand technology, just to mention the ones that quickly come to mind. With nods to Blade Runner, Ai, and of course Pinocchio, vN is for anyone who is sick of waiting for the future to get here already. I recently had the honor to interview Madeline Ashby, and if there is anyone knows what the future  brings, it’s her. It wouldn’t surprise me if she edged out Cory Doctorow as my favorite futurist. She’s canny on the uncanny valley, and I think after reading vN you will be too.

First off, the vast majority of the book is from the viewpoint of the vN’s. Ashby immediately puts us behind the eyes of Amy, a five year old vN who has been raised by her vN mother and her human father. Her parents have chosen to raise her as close to a human child as possible, so along with all the other five year old kids in the neighborhood, Amy is in kindergarden at the beginning of our story.

But Amy isn’t a regular human girl. She’s a von Neumann self replicating humanoid. And it’s the “self replicating” part thats only the first brilliant thing in this book. By consuming the correct amount of feedstock, a vN can iterate – create a clone of themselves. Amy is a clone of her mother Charlotte, and every vN of their model has identical physical attributes. Conversely, should a vN want to stay child-size or not iterate, they must literally starve themselves. Amy has been starving since the day she was “born”. So when her grandmother threatens Charlotte, Amy’s first reaction is to disarm her grandmother by eating her.

Kindergardner eats Grandma is a bit of an opening shocker, no?

why yes, yes that was a bit of a shocker.  But a brilliant one.

Read the rest of this entry »

I was gone for a few days, and someone started giving away some of my Very Good Books?  As much as I love getting and receiving VeryGoodBooks, it’s also great to share them and pass them on when I’m done with them.  Maybe I should do these long weekends out of town more often!

While I was gone, I devoured Madeline Ashby’s debut novel vN, which hits bookstore shelves in late July.  I did truly devour it. I had planned to read it a little bit here, a little bit there, over coffee, enjoying my Mom’s garden, and nope. Once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down. It was finished before I even got to my parents house. Alluring cover art and a fascinating premise of a future where self replicating humanoids live side by side with humans, marrying humans, being raised as human children, being told they are equal to humans, and well, sometimes not.

With nods to Bladerunner and AI, vN is what you should be reading if you’re canny on the uncanny valley. Suffice to say, I was thrilled when Ms. Ashby offered to answer a few questions for me. While you’re waiting for my review (it’ll post tomorrow if I can get my act together later today), let’s better get to know Madeline Ashby – Strategic Foresight Consultant, science fiction writer, lover of manga and anime, and the woman who proved you CAN do a masters degree on a science fictional topic. Twice.

L.R.R. You can find manga in any bookstore and anime on nearly any television station these days, but this wasn’t always the case. How did you get hooked on manga and anime? Where would you suggest someone new to those forms start?

M.A. I had friends in high school who were interested in anime. Specifically, someone who used the characters of Haruka and Michiru (Sailors Uranus and Neptune, respectively) on Sailor Moon to talk about her own sexuality. But she wasn’t the only one. I had friends who were into Evangelion and Utena and Fushigi Yuugi. I watched movies like Akira and Ghost in the Shell with them. That pattern didn’t change in university or afterward. I still watch anime with friends.

If I were suggesting anime titles to anyone, I would ask them what genres they like in the first place. If they want science fiction with a side of deep characterization and pulse-pounding action, Cowboy Bebop. If they want a thoughtful slice-of-life dramedy with a side of tender romance, then Fruits Basket. If they want something totally surreal, then FLCL or Paranoia Agent. If they want something meta, something that comments on a genre from within that genre, then Madoka or Evangelion.

L.R.R. vN opens with a  beautiful family scene between Amy and her parents; her vN mother Charlotte, and her human father Jack.  They have a healthy normal family life. I realize this is a loaded question, but do you think this is a possible future for humanity – mixed couples of one human partner and one synthetic/humanoid partner?

Red will be home any day now, better make this last give away count. I should totally do a double.  maybe two books that go together? two books with really sweet cover art that are a blast to read?

found ’em!

today’s give away is for Mike Resnick’s wonderfully weird wild west steampunk adventures The Buntline Special and The Doctor and The Kid (ARC).  Get entered in the give away by leaving a comment down below. See the rules below, and get your entry in!

Teh rules:
– you can only enter once in each give away, but you are highly encouraged to enter in more than one!
– Give aways are open to all residents of Earth, keeping in mind that shipping outside the US takes a little longer.
– all give aways in this weekend series will close on Friday, June 1.

Red isn’t going to be back for another few days, I think it’s time for another give away, don’t you?  Let’s see, what other goodies has she got that everyone is hankering to read?

a HA!  Today’s giveaway is a gently read ARC of Mazarkis Williams’ non-western-world epic fantasy The Emperor’s Knife, even more valuable now that it’s sequel, Knife Sworn is scheduled to come out later this year.

See rules below, and enter to get your hands on a copy of this rare ARC by leaving a comment.  you know you want it!

Teh rules:
– you can only enter once in each give away, but you are highly encouraged to enter in more than one!
– Give aways are open to all residents of Earth, keeping in mind that shipping outside the US takes a little longer.
– all give aways in this weekend series will close on Friday, June 1.

Has this been the most amazing read along or what?  10 weeks,  over 30 bloggers, 6 organizers, 1300+ pages of delicious bookness, incredibleness all around! And people, all that brilliance? ALL YOU.  Before I get even more maudlin, I should get right to it.

This week’s read along questions were provided by Lynn over at Lynn’s Book Blog, and make sure to give a shout out to our other wonderful organizers, Dark Cargo, My Awful Reviews, and @ohthatashley from SF Signal.

I’m out of town this weekend, and may not be available to collect links on Saturday. Leave your link in the comments, and click on everyone else’s links in the comments. When I get back into town next week I’ll update the link list. Viva la family vacation!

Because this is the last post, with all the mega spoilers, all the questions, answers, and snarky images are after the jump.  If you see any weird grammatical errors it’s because I’m trying to write in present tense but this post is actually happening in the future and I’ve already written it.

ready to talk spoilers?  let’s go!

* Finally edited on 5/29 to add everyone’s links. I’ll visit everyone as soon as I have time later this week.

Lynn’s Book Blog
Coffee Cookies and Chili Peppers
Dark Cargo
Tethyan Books
Kaitharshayr’s Musings
All I Am – A Redhead
Hugo Endurance Project
Nashville Bookworm
Beware of the Froggies
Rose’s thingamajig
Genkinahito’s Blog
Scruffy Fiction
Books without Any Pictures
Real Books 4 Ever
Travels Through Iest
Paperless Reading
Central Neural Pathway Station
Booky Pony

Read the rest of this entry »

ppssst! yeah, you there!

Red is away for the weekend, and imma gonna give away a bunch of her stuff! ok, not a bunch, more like a handful of verygoodbooks that she doesn’t have room for.

look for new give aways all weekend, enter yourself in the drawing by leaving a comment.

today’s give away is a gently read copy of Nancy Kress’s wonderful post apocalyptic novella After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall. blunt and heartbreaking, this is the kind of story that sticks with you. See Red’s review here.

look like something you might be interested in? Read the give away rules before, and get your entry in!

Teh rules:
– you can only enter once in each give away, but you are highly encouraged to enter in more than one!
– Give aways are open to all residents of Earth, keeping in mind that shipping outside the US takes a little longer.
– all give aways in this weekend series will close on Friday, June 1.

saw some scenery not far from where I live, and thought “hey, this looks like what I’m reading”, only less imaginative, of course.

can you guess what I’m reading?

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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.