Late last year I read Martha Wells’ All Systems Red the first book in her Hugo, Nebula, Alex, and Locus Award-winning, and bestselling series, The Murderbot Diaries. The series features a human-like android who keeps getting sucked back into one adventure after another, even though it just wants to be left alone, away from humanity and small talk. Its perfect day is holed up somewhere dark and quiet with its entertainment feed. I can relate.
I travel the last two weeks of the year to see family and friends for the holidays and that means no less than three flights and various amounts of time in airports. I usually take a break from reading and reviewing during those two weeks to recharge and only read something light and fluffy that I can pick up and put down between flights. I thought the next three Murderbot novellas would be perfect for that goal, and I wasn’t wrong, although I vastly underestimated how long they would take to read (in my defense ASR is only 90 pages on my nook, the other three are all over 150 pages so I had nearly double the amount of reading to do than I thought).
“It has a dark past – one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself Murderbot. But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more. Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART, Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue. What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…”
The second novella picks up with Murderbot on the run having left Dr. Mensah and her team to deal with the fallout of the action in All Systems Red the newly free Murderbot is on a mission of self rediscovery, heading back to the place where it thinks it killed all those people and knows it had its memory wiped. While on the hunt for its own history Murderbot picks up a new friend in ART (whom I also adored, so competent much helpful) and a new cadre of humans in need of being kept alive.
Murderbot is actively telling us the story and it could be off-putting, but since Murderbot is self-referential and sarcastic it keeps the narrative moving along quite well. Wells also explains the corporate centric nature of her future as well as the differences between constructs such as Murderbot and augmented humans in such a clear way that the reader isn’t lost in the jargon but instead immediately understands what it is that Murderbot is facing at each turn as it struggles to get its own information, blend in as an augmented human security consultant, and keep those pesky programmers alive.
“Who knew being a heartless killing machine would present so many moral dilemmas? The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah’s SecUnit is. And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.”
I enjoyed this one less than the previous two, and I think its because I never really connected to the non-Murderbot characters (Miki was nice and all, but no match for ART or Dr. Mensah). Based on what it learned in Artificial Condition Murderbot is off in search of the next piece in the puzzle that connects its own past to what happened on its mission with Dr. Mensah’s team. We have a relatively similar set-up to the previous outing, hitch a ride on a transport, meet a “friend”, accidentally end up with a human client in need of being kept alive (whether they know it or not), and a hunt for information and a fight to get out alive. Like I said, its good, I just didn’t love it as much as its predecessors.
“The fourth and final part of the Murderbot Diaries series that began with All Systems Red. Murderbot wasn’t programmed to care. So, its decision to help the only human who ever showed it respect must be a system glitch, right? Having traveled the width of the galaxy to unearth details of its own murderous transgressions, as well as those of the GrayCris Corporation, Murderbot is heading to help Dr. Mensah—its former owner (protector? friend?)— to prevent GrayCris from destroying more colonists in its never-ending quest for profit. But who’s going to believe a SecUnit gone rogue? And what will become of it when it’s caught?”
With the fourth installment we are back to the Muderbot relationships we know and love. Dr. Mensah brings out the human in Murderbot in a way no other character does. This story is also action packed – we have to get to Mensah, find Mensah, free Mensah, and then survive long enough to get back to Preservation… where Murderbot has to literally discover who it was and who it wants to be.
I’m counting these three for task 7 in the Read Women 2019 Challenge, read a book featuring a female scientist – these books are LITTERED with female scientists. So many in fact my brain kept forgetting that it was mostly reading about women outside of Murderbot (who has no gender). Wells packs her works full of supporting and tertiary female and third-gendered (ter) or non-gendered characters where more traditional or conventional writers would have had strictly male characters. A boon for us all and a refreshing change of pace.