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vN

Madeline Ashby. Angry Robot (www.angryrobotbooks.com), $12.99 trade paper (356p)

Self-replicating vN (von Neumann) humanoids face unique dilemmas in debut novelist Ashby’s robot family drama. Amy, the synthetic daughter of a mixed human/synthetic couple, is surprised at kindergarten graduation by her mother’s mother, Portia, who kills a human child despite her embedded fail-safe. Amy, who has been starved to keep her development human-paced, devours Portia and immediately grows to adult size. Hunted as a fugitive, she must also contend with a copy of Portia still running in her thoughts. Amy dodges bounty hunters with Javier, another fugitive synthetic with family problems (he’s a serial reproducer who abandons fast-grown offspring), and seeks to free her jailed parents and reach the legendary humanoid sanctuary of Mecha. Ashby manages to create real sympathy for her synthetics, but fails to detail her near-future landscape (a Pacific Northwest depopulated by an enormous earthquake) with enough distractions to cover the paucity of human characters. Agent: Monica Pacheco, Anne McDermid Associates. (Aug.)