Review: iD by Madeline Ashby

If you're interested in hearing more about Madeline Ashby and her Machine Dynasty series, she'll be stopping by Working for the Mandroid tomorrow for an interview!

Madeline Ashby

Angry Robot
I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Released June 25, 2013
320 pages
Robots / Science Fiction

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Javier is a self-replicating humanoid on a journey of redemption. 

Javier's quest takes him from Amy's island, where his actions have devastating consequences for his friend, toward Mecha where he will find either salvation... or death. 

File Under: Science Fiction [ vN2 | Island in the Streams | Failsafe No More | The Stepford Solution ]

Last week I reviewed vN, the first book in The Machine Dynasty series, a book that blew my mind with its take on the usual humanoid robot conceits. In this world, robots could grow and reproduce themselves depending on how much they ate. It opened with little Amy eating her grandmother after her grandmother proved that the failsafe for all vN didn’t exist in their robot line. It became a road trip adventure full of robot on robot violence with a fair share of human collateral. The climax alone was so twisted and unexpected that I read it multiple time to really understand it. It was an awesome work of robot crazy.


iD opens on Amy’s island, the result from her battle with the weird robot monster kraken that destroyed the container ship she and a couple thousand of her murderous replicas were traveling on to get to the robot haven of Mecha. Everything about Amy’s island is under her control and she speaks to it constantly, rearranging land, adding features and creating a safe haven for robots who can’t afford Mecha, but who have been ostracized by human society. Everything seems to be going great until a weird submarine made out of robot muscle tissue arrives with a small squadron of puppet vN driven by humans elsewhere. It’s never entirely clear what these puppets are there for as they aren’t given the chance to do much of anything before the island defenses start up.

This battle-that-isn’t-really-a-battle starts a chain of events that leads to devastating consequences to Amy, her island, and all the island’s inhabitants. The greater world doesn’t like the Amy model and wants it dead. Having an island in the middle of the ocean full of vN and supposed Amy-sympathizers does not sit well. So the humans use the failsafe to their advantage and the world built in the end of the first volume is destroyed so more adventure could start.

Whereas the majority of vN was told from the third-person perspective of Amy, this second volume is told from Javier’s viewpoint. He was previously shown as a kind and progressively more reliable friend, street smart yet a little bit of a coward. By the end it’s clear he has feelings for Amy, except she thinks his feelings are based on the fact that she’s more human than the other vN and he is programmed to love humans. Whereas vN was filled with violence due to the lack of failsafe and the presence of the murderous Porsche, iD is full of sex and sexual imagery because that’s what Javier is good at and what colors his viewpoint of the world.

Another seedy underbelly of the vN industry is discovered as he searches for answers and his youngest son. From whore houses with young-looking vN to Vegas casinos fill with fake versions of reality to a stepford city for unwanted Vn and finally to Mecha, where everything comes to a head and things get messy. Some sort of sexual adventure or fetish all the while Javier is reliving his early days when his father abandoned him in jail and the ensuing relationships once he escaped from jail. It’s disturbing and it verged on the uncomfortable for me at times.

Javier isn’t my favorite character and I think this second volume suffered from the lack of Amy and only a few appearances of Porsche psychopathy. His interactions with people and the world are very one dimensional, depending on sexual advances to get what he needs. The flashbacks made him a sympathetic character, but his real time adventures just weren’t exciting to me. I kept wanting to know more of the action happening that was the budding war between the vN and humans that occurred mostly off screen.

Perhaps I was burned out by the crazy robot shenanigans, but by the final show down and the same shift in perspective that vaguely pieces together non-physical events in broken metaphorical thoughts, I just couldn’t follow. I loved the scenes in Mecha and the introduction of another key character, though her existence didn’t really make sense to me and the conclusion left me a little baffled. Perhaps my brain had leaked out of my head too many times by this point.

I think some of the magic captured in vN was lost for me in the sequel. It felt often repetitive, but definitely not predictable. This is still a series I look forward to continuing. This volume relied a little too much on robot/human sexual encounters and not enough on action to see me through the crazy.


I received an electronic ARC from Angry Robot in return for an honest review. Thank you to AR and Madeline for providing me with the robot craziness.