I have been on such a streak of good books that it is getting harder to stop and write reviews. I am now 4 reviews behind, and the second installment in the Murderbot Diaries is jumping ahead of Hunger, Kindred, The Hate U Give and Ancillary Sword. I have all those reviews started. I just need to stop reading long enough to write them.
I adored the first Murderbot Diaries, All Systems Red. I felt like I had never identified more with a fictional character. Murderbot wants to be left alone to watch their shows. Murderbot is a construct, a combination of cloned organic tissue, robot parts and artificial intelligence. A side effect of making constructs smart enough to operate without human oversight, is that they can become depressed and anxious. Murderbot anesthetizes their depression and anxiety with the shows it has downloaded, particularly Sanctuary Moon.
In this installment, Murderbot is trying to get to the planet where they had malfunctioned and murdered their clients. Along the way, they meet up with a sarcastic transport ship, a small band of new clients, and a murderous sexbot. The transport ship earns the name ART – Asshole Research Transport. Murderbot introduces them to binge watching.
“It’s not realistic,” I told it. “It’s not supposed to be realistic. It’s a story, not a documentary. If you complain about that, I’ll stop watching.”
I will refrain from complaint, it said. (Imagine that in the most sarcastic tone you can, and you’ll have some idea of how it sounded.)
So we watched Worldhoppers. It didn’t complain about the lack of realism. After three episodes, it got agitated whenever a minor character was killed. When a major character died in the twentieth episode I had to pause seven minutes while it sat there in the feed doing the bot equivalent of staring at a wall, pretending that it had to run diagnostics. Then four episodes later the character came back to life and it was so relieved we had to watch that episode three times before it would go on.
I have noticed that this year I’m reading a lot of women written AIs who are depressed, anxious, or grieving. Murderbot, Breq, and Sidra are AIs in human(ish) bodies and have had their primary functions removed. Breq and Sidra, as ships who have lost their ships and become individual humans, have even more in common. Murderbot, having been traumatized by the event they are researching, has always been a single body and chose to both take control of their governor modulation and chose to leave their human team. I am sure someone is already working on an academic paper about this. I haven’t come to any conclusions, but it’s interesting.