Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) 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.
Thoughts: In the previous novel in the series, vN, Ashby introduces us to Amy, and we follow her story of self-discovery in a futuristic world where humanoid robots have been created to fulfill a person’s every whim. And I do mean every whim, because yes, pedophilia is touched upon in this series, and the future is not entirely a comfortable place.
In this sequel, we instead follow Javier, Amy’s companion and love. Where much of vN had a focus on finding a sense of self and learning about who you are when developing from a child to an adult, much of Javier’s point of view centres around sex. Which isn’t done just to be edgy and erotic, but because for much of his life, Javier saw himself in how he related sexually to others. Specifically, humans. The story starts with him remembering how often he was oh-so-kindly disregarded and put down by sexual partners, because in being vN, he was a disposable pleasure toy and not a partner.
After being forced into poisoning Amy, Javier leaves their island home and goes on a search for her backup, to try to restore her. Along the way we see flashbacks of what was considered his childhood, his awkward relationship with his father (ie, the vN who iterated him), and seeing how he grew into the person we see during the main part of the story was supremely interesting. In vN we got to see some of Javier, and he definitely played a major role in the story, but with the focus being entirely on him now, we get to learn so much more about him, and we also get to see how Ashby shines as a character writer. Her characters are wonderfully flawed, gritty, idealistic, so very real that you close the book feeling like you’ve just been talking to friends in your living room, not reading about them in pages.
Javier’s approach to sex may cause some consternation in readers, because while he certainly uses it to his advantages as he travels and seeks information, his view on it is highly subjective. From a rape early in the story (which caused him to feel guilt over the act in spite of being forced into it via his failsafe) to later and more willing sexual encounters to gain what he wanted from others (which he demonstrated less guilt over), it may come across as very inconsistent. I can somewhat see where the distinction lay and why he would feel less guilt over a willing encounter than a forced one (obviously), but I would still have expected him to feel somewhat more guilt over the willing encounters due to his feelings for Amy. It’s a very complex thing, and I’m not completely convinced it was conveyed well in the story.
Also of note is the way Ashby inserted a few non-English languages into the mix, which was a combination of both good and bad. Good in that it was done realistically, in places where there would actually be languages other than English spoken or written. Bad in that, well, while I could understand the French and Japanese, my Spanish leaves something to be desired, and there were many lines that I simply were lost on. Nothing essential to the plot, thankfully, but I was still left with the feeling that I missed something. Keep a few language dictionaries handy, or be prepared to Google some things.
From Javier’s search for Amy and the search for peace and growth within himself, we get a very interesting story that expands on what was established in vN, and this is one sci-fi series not to be missed. Ashby has a wonderful imagination, an eye for detail, and characters that I don’t want to part from. From the beginning of the first book to the end of the second, I was hooked, and I’m eagerly looking forward to anything that Ashby does in the future.
(Book provided for review by the publisher via NetGalley.)