Madeline Ashby – iD

madelineashby-idJavier 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.

vN was one of my favourite debuts for 2012, only beaten out by Tanya Byrne’s Heart-Shaped Bruise. I loved Amy’s story and the world Ashby created. I was looking forward to returning to the world and seeing how the developments of the last book would echo through this one.   

While iD is just as great as vN, it’s the complete polar opposite of its predecessor. vN dealt with the child-like and innocent Amy who was forced to grow up fast, while Javier is far more adult, though younger in actual years than Amy. As a consequence, where vN might even have been marketed as a crossover novel, iD is definitely for adults, as Javier’s story clearly investigates the less savoury side of people’s connections to vN, with large roles for Jonah Lemarque and the son he victimised.

After the events of vN, Javier, Amy and his kids have settled down with other vN on what is just known as ‘the island’, the heap of electronic waste material Amy is able to control and mould into a habitable place. We pick up the story from here, but this time the story is told from Javier’s point of view. We learn of his past, of how he was forced to grow up fast, how his dad abandoned him in a prison and how he got out. I found his story fascinating, because despite all that had happened to him, Javier remains a hopeful character, always striving to create a better future for himself and the ones he loves. Also interesting to see how he experiences failsaving, the shorting-out that happens to vN when they either commit or see violence against a human being. The fact that he shorts out on Amy, asks interesting questions about what makes one human. The one fundamental difference between Amy and other vN is her broken failsafe, which in essence means that she’s regained free will.

The book is darker, especially toward the end, with Javier encountering the darker side of humanity and being used to do things against his will. The way the failsafe enables people to force Javier into having sex and the consequences implied and shown – there is at least one encounter shown that I’d classify as rape – might be triggering for people, but it’s also a crucial plot element in iD—it’s why Javier does what he does, it’s why Amy refuses to sleep with him, as she feels it would be taking advantage of her impact on his Turing system. It’s an interesting look at sexual power politics in which one half dominates the other due to – in this case literal – programming that, especially in light of the current discussions on equality in SFF-dom, makes for a powerful social commentary.

The way the vN are treated by the humans and the plans humanity has for dealing with ‘the vN problem’, particularly in light of the fact that the expected Rapture hasn’t happened, is horrific and in some ways can be seen as a final solution variant. I found it shocking and perhaps that reinforces the fact that Ashby’s succeeded very well in making the vN’s into full-fledged entities, who should have rights and privileges just as much as humans. I loved the resolution to this attack though, it was a clever way to subvert humanity’s treachery.

The ending of the novel rather took me by surprise as I hadn’t expected it to end on that note and as such the epilogue confused me a little at first, but after rereading, it made sense and left me feeling triumphant and hopeful for our protagonists’ future. With iD Ashby closes out an excellent duology, one that is both thought-provoking and extremely entertaining. Hopefully a third book will be given the go-ahead and we’ll see more of Javier and Amy and their family, but I look forward to reading whatever Ashby comes up with next.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

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