vN by Madeline Ashby

Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine, a self-replicating humanoid robot.
For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.
Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade’s history – like the fact that the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed… Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her.
 
vN [1. provided free by Angry Robot. Full disclosure, I am a member of the Robot Army, making me an official reviewer for the company.] is an interesting book, exploring the nature of sentience and the ethics of inbuilt slavery and rebellion against your role in life.
If that’s making you go ‘Oh, no thanks, I just wanted to read a story’, well you don’t need to worry about that. It’s also a very good book.
Amy is a vN, a humanoid robot capable of self-replication. In an effort to help her grow up as a ‘normal’ child, her parents – her human father and her identical, vN mother – have her on a diet designed to slow her growth. Thanks to this choice, when her malfunctioning grandmother attacks her school, she eats her. And in doing so, she absorbs her grandmother, personality and all. A sereis of events leads her to realise that she can absorb the programming of any vN through consuming them. She’s a new breed, and her failsafe, the thing that prevents her from harming humans no longer works.
And there are other vNs that want to be able to do the same.
The book is a slow starter. I was a good 20% of the way in before I started caring about the plot or the characters, and I was actually considering giving up and calling this a DNF review. But then, around that mark something changed. The stakes got higher, or I connected with Amys character a little more, I don’t know. All I know is I stayed up till 1 am to get to the half way point, and then finished it off in one sprint the following morning.
It’s powerful. It really is. vN discusses slavery, the future of robotics, the nature of humanity and sentience and does so without preaching or lecturing. It merely tells you a story and lets you come to your own conclusions about the theories it advances.  Parallels are drawn between the fate of the vN and the fate of other opressed peoples within society. You’ll end up feeling sympathy for the ‘bad guys’ and maybe even rooting for them. They’re sentient: shouldn’t they be able to protect themselves and others from harm? Should their programming force them to love humans even when the human is a monster? Shouldn’t they have that free choice?
It’s not really a high-action piece. It has action scenes, but the tone and feel is thoughful and considering. For much of the book Amy is mentally a little girl discovering that the limitations she thought she had aren’t real, and that leads to an almost philosophical style to the narrative. Ashby is a capable writer, her prose effective and competent, but rarely lyrical or beautiful.
Perhaps it’s not, strictly speaking, apocalyptic, but the back story of how the vN were created is close enough for me, and the fact that it’s a series indicates that it may go somewhere dystopian or apocalyptic later, and I wouldn’t be surprised.
I strongly recommend picking up this book.
And I have to admit I enjoyed the irony of a book about angry robots being published by Angry Robot.
You can buy your copy (available in print or as an eBook) by clicking here.
[rating:4.5/5]

But it's not going to happen!

Any time you want to discuss anything post-apocalyptic with people, the first thing they do is shout in your face “But it’s not going to happen!”. To be fair, it’s probably not. But that’s not the point.
The fact that something’s probably not going to happen is no reason not to be prepared for it, is it? This book I’m writing probably isn’t going to nab me my dream agent and get me a three book deal with Tor, but I’m sure as hell prepared in case it does. I’d rather be ready and never need it, than need to be ready and not be.
I also think those people miss the point of this website just a tad. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we are not a serious survivalist kind of place. There’s plenty of them on the internet, and you don’t need any more. And whiile we hope we sometimes give you good advice that might keep you alive, we’re more about the odder stuff that could happen to you in a post-apocalyptic world. After all, I once discussed the possibility of sentient badgers. We’re more informed by pop-culture than religion, more concerned with how to do our hair and what unrealistic beauty standards we’ll be held to than how many guns we should have. I’m a Brit. I’ve only ever seen a real life gun once.
We don’t think it’ll only be a specific breed of hyper-prepared evangalist who’ll make it. We don’t think ‘traditional gender roles’ will be necessary or desirable. We think the new world will be pretty crapsack, but will have some good bits. We think worldwide starvation or economic collapse is more likely than Dragon infestation, but we think Dragon infestation would be cooler.
And most importantly, we know our history. We know that humanity has survived dozens of apocalyptic events, from plagues and wars to country wide, year long floods. We know that no matter how much the media shrieks, this is nothing new. We know that we are descended from people that made it, and that we can make it too. We know that we are no more likely than anyone in our ancestry to have our short, dull lives intruded on by a disaster – but we’re no more likely to avoid it, either. This is down to luck. We believe in taking risks and going after your dreams, because our research suggests that, based on humanitys history, we have a reasonable chance of not making it.
OK, an example of all these apocalyptic events humanity has made it through. As a European with Irish ancestry, in order for me to exist my ancestors had to: Survive a plague. Survive a year where it never stopped raining. Survive two world wars. Survive the Potato Famine. Survive a Civil War.
And those are just the ones I could rememberoff the top of my head, and there were probably more before history started being written down.
It probably won’t happen. But if it does, we think we can make it, and we think that we can help you make it too.

The post-apocalyptic legal system

First, I apologize for not posting last week; I was on holidays and was so discombobulated when I got back (I’m not used to taking holidays, heh), I forgot all sorts of stuff. It got pretty ugly, actually. But now I’m back, with my head partially screwed on straight. (It’s only slightly askew.)
Anyway. Right before I left for holidays, I got a jury duty summons letter. Believe it or not, I actually want to serve on a jury (and have wanted to ever since I taught a high school legal studies class and got to go on a field trip to the courthouse with my students). So I was kinda a lot excited about my letter from the provincial government. Until Hubby reminded me that as a stay-at-home-mom, I now have two tiny-human, round-the-clock bosses, and where the hell would we put the kids if I got picked for a jury? So, sadly, I had to apply for an exemption. And my application was approved, which means I am now excused from jury duty. Which makes me a sad Char, indeed.
Continue reading “The post-apocalyptic legal system”

Designer Feature: Chris and Jane's Place

Chris and Jane, of Chris and Jane’s Place, are the creators of a line of Zombie Gnomes.

One if my least favorite things about being a grown up is being restrained by boring grown up decorations for the house and home. Chris and Jane of Chris and Jane’s Place are working to change that with their line of Zombie Gnomes.
The Zombie Gnomes come painted or blank for a fun craft project. How fun would that be!? Sitting at home during with candles on, chatting about survival plans, maybe playing Munchkin Zombies, and personalizing an undead lawn ornament. Perfect.
I had the chance to ask Chris and Jane some questions about them and their business which includes not only Zombie Gnomes but also fancy, hand decorated top hats; Survival Gnomes,  and more.

Learn More about Chris and Jane and their Zombie Gnomes:

1. Who are you, I mean, really?

Our names are Chris Stever and Jane Marie DeRosa and we are recently engaged. Jane grew up in an very artistic family. Both of her parents are Disney animators and so she was always surrounded by all medias of art. Jane then went to collage and studied Theatre. Where she developed more of her painting shills and her story telling abilities. Chris has always been an artistic and creative individual as a child he had several note books filled with designs and schematics for new inventions. He started sculpting when he was in High School and then started taking classes in practical effects for films and theater

2. What is it that you do?

We make Zombie Gnomes along with prosthetics and other special practical effects. Recently Jane loves playing Skyrim every night after work. Chris enjoys playing basketball and going on to espn.com to chat on NBA trade forums. One thing we love doing together is watching Game of Thrones we are halfway through season two. We also like finding new recipes and cooking together, but we haven’t had a lot of time to do that lately because Zombie Gnomes have taken over our lives.

3. When did you first realize you wanted to do that thing?

One day Chris was contemplating the inevitable zombie out break and his plan to survive it when he wondered what would happen if the fantasy world was affected by the zombie virus. Zombie garden gnomes was ultimately the conclusion to those thoughts, and after telling Jane we decided to make one for laughs. At first we just made Zombie Gnomes as a joke for our friends but when we put them up on etsy and we started selling them we realized we really had something.

4. Where are you from (and how do you feel about that place?)?

We are from sunny southern California and we love it here :). We wouldn’t have it any other way.

5. Why would you make a good apocalypse party member?

We would be good members of an apocalypse because we know how to grow our own food and we both know, between the two of us, 5 different styles of martial arts.

6. How can we find out more?

You can learn more about our products on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ZombieGnomes
Buy our products on our etsy page: www.etsy.com/shop/ChrisandJanesPlace
Follow us on Twitter: @ZombieGnomes
 
A huge thanks to Chris and Jane for taking the time to answer our questions and create these wonderful additions to zombie culture!
 

Revolution is not Jericho 2.0

A show set in near-future, post-apocalyptic, mid-western America about survival, family and fighting for what’s right? No, not Jericho. NBC‘s new show: Revolution.
I keep seeing comparisons, complaints, and accusations about how Revolution is a rip off or retry of Jericho. However, if you dig a little deeper, look just a bit closer, you’ll see these are very different stories.
In Jericho we saw an immediate reaction to not only a loss of electrical power, but also social power. Jericho was the parable of being doomed to relive the history we refused to learn from. At the genesis of society’s reboot there was constant competition between the old way and some possible new way that might work better. Fear, confusion, and order were everyday challenges for those living in Jericho’s post-apocalyptic world.
Every time normalcy was established in Jericho it was under threat, be it from their neighbors in New Bern or from the sketchy new corporate government in Cheyenne. They couldn’t really settle into a lifestyle because the world hadn’t settled yet.We see fear, confusion, and order conquered in Revolution. The story is set about 15 years after the blackout and anyone who was going to survive has survived. Community and sustainable lifestyles have been established. There’s a massive difference between surviving for a few months, or even a couple of years, and doing it for a decade or more. There’s a comfort in normalcy, even if it’s the new normal created out of necessity.
Revolution removes the option characters had in Jericho to run away or pity themselves. Unless their people are somehow worse off than the people elsewhere, their situation is what it is. The citizens of Jericho not only trying to stave off conflict, they were also constantly trying to plan for the next situation be acid rain, winter, or food shortages.In Revolution we’re introduced to a world that’s accepted its fate, survived it, and lived in it. Unlike in Jericho, no one was excluded. We, the audience, get to see from the introduction that this is not an isolated issue. No care packages are coming and there’s no safe zone to be thankful for.
In post-apocalyptic Revolution, people might want to migrate away from winter and they might need to deal with the local power-mad warlord. Personally, I think a power-mad warlord, unlike a starved and desperate neighbor, is somewhat their own damn fault. It’s their community and their responsibility to stomp that noise out at its inception or suffer when it comes to fruition.
In Jericho we say a civil war where the winner got to survive. In Revolution we see a bully with an agenda and an army. While the solution to both problems is to band together, it’s a different and scarier kind of stand that needs to be taken when it’s a moral imperative rather than a life or death one.
I encourage you to watch both– at least a little. Jericho because it’s awesome and I can’t say enough good things about it. Revolution because it might be awesome if you give it a chance on its own merits.

Official site: nbc.com/revolution
Official twitter: @NBCRevolution

LiveBlog: Black Sheep.

Inspired by the success of my live-tweeting the so-bad-it’s-good The GraveDancers, I have decided to liveblog Black Sheep today, at about 3:00 pm GMT.
A little bit about Black Sheep: It’s made by a New Zealand guy, and it’s effectively about genetically engineering sheep so they become flesh eating, virus transmitting monsters. It’s a zombie-werewolf film. With sheep. Yes, I am doing this to myself out of choice. Why? I have nothing better to do.
Oh, and so the joke is out of the way RIGHT at the start… It’s a Ewepocalypse. Yes, I went there.
See you at 3:00. If you have a copy, why not join in? Put your reactions in the comments.
[liveblog]
Well, that was a thourougly ridiculous film. But I enjoyed t. Some wonderful moments – sheep farts saving the day, and some clever lines. But overall I found it kind of bland.
 
Your thoughts?

Announcement:

On tuesday I will be liveblogging the ridiculous Black Sheep, at around 3pm GMT. So acquire your copies, and come join me.
 
Consider this post not only an announcement but the testing of the live-blog software before we go live.
 
Testing, testing.
 
OK, Worked it out. What you need to do on tuesday is to refresh the page fairly often in order to read the liveblog. Join in with your reactions in the comments.
[liveblog]

Tavia will be at PAX PRIME 2012!

I’m packing up my bug out back and traveling to Seattle, because In Case of Survival well be covering all things video game related and apocalyptic, dystopian and fringe for your pleasure.
Is there anything you definitely want us to cover for you at PAX Prime? You’re our friends, we give a shit if you get what you want.
Check out the site and hit us up with comments: http://prime.paxsite.com/
Finally, if you hear about something awesome (for example, I got a free copy of Rift at PAX East) that I should make sure to snag for a giveaway or review, let me know in the comments or on twitter @ApocalypticLife.
YAY!
(While you’re here, check out our gaming archive)