I don’t often pre-order, but the Murderbot series is one of the few that I will do that for. I am however realizing that this often means I have to wait a few days after the release to actually get the book; this was true even before pandemic close/slow-downs. This meant that I was getting a little impatient for Network Effect to show up. When the novel showed up, I got into it right away, and I think this might have been a bit of a mistake. I didn’t really enjoy the first half as much as I might have, and I think part of that was because I was rushing to find out what was going to happen. Then I had to put the book down for a few days when work got busy, and when I picked it back up again, I really started to enjoy it. Once I finished I went back and started re-reading the first part more slowly, and it seemed better than I remembered.
There are about 3 different threads going on in Network Effect. First, there’s Preservation and Murderbot’s experiences with normal non-adventure human life, as well as some more detail about Mensah’s family and some general culture. This is where the novel starts, but it occasionally comes back in the form of flashbacks etc. Then there’s the main adventure of Murderbot being sent along on an expedition, mostly to keep an eye on Amena, Mensah’s teenage daughter. The big problem happens when they are attacked, split up, and then Murderbot and those with it (including Amena) have to deal with unfriendly aliens of some sort and the stolen ship Perihelion, who were the ones attacking. Perihelion is ARTs proper name, but ART is nowhere to be found on the ship, so Murderbot and company have to figure out what happened and bring back ART if they can. This leads to another corporate vagary evil whatever mystery that the team has to solve/beat in order to save innocent people and themselves. Third and probably my favorite bit, although this could be because it’s mostly in the second half of the novel, is the part where you get to see what Murderbot was probably like in previous phases of its existence before you first meet it in All Systems Red, such as just before and after it hacks its governor module, and a pared down version of the Murderbot core code/personality.
The one thing I stand by about my initial reaction to the novel, which is the first full length episode in the saga, is that I don’t think the HelpMe interludes fit. They made no sense as part of the story when I first read through except to add some extra background detail about things like how Amena and Murderbot get along at first, and I still don’t think they fit in well even now that I’ve got more context about what the segments mean and how they’re meant to fit in. No spoilers here about that, but I just don’t think those pieces integrate into the story as well as they might have; the technique of dropping seemingly random pieces of story in which later all tie together and have a purpose just doesn’t work very well here.