I could bang on about the discomfort of humans in late stage capitalist societies being treated as replaceable commodities as a reason that many of us identify with Murderbot, but you live here with me, so you know. Murderbot struggles to balance self-determination with blending in to fucked up society. After freeing them self from their governor module, they have had to behave as if they are under corporate control. They still have to act within a system that would sell them for parts if it’s autonomy were known. That trapped feeling, the unaddressed trauma, the depression and anxiety all warring with the desire for understanding and true independence makes Murderbot a zeitgeist character.
(If I got angry at myself for being angry I would be angry constantly and I wouldn’t have time to think about anything else.)
(Wait, I think I am angry constantly. That might explain a lot.)
Wrap all that up in sarcasm, action and violence and The Murderbot Diaries are also a fun distraction.
People smarter than me will have more interesting things to say about Network Effect. I enjoyed the book tremendously. In March and April, I relistened to the audiobooks, I reread my ebooks. While I was reading Network Effect the first time, I stopped and reread All Systems Red. Ratthi came up and I needed to revisit how much Ratthi has come to understand and appreciate Murderbot since he tried to make Murderbot talk about it’s feelings. And then I had to reread Artificial Condition just to see ART and Murderbot bond.
I don’t want to ruin the experience of reading this for anyone who hasn’t and most of my more interesting book specific thoughts are pretty spoilery. You know going in that ART will be involved. I share Murderbot’s frustration with language because there were moments involving Murderbot and ART that are best described as sweepingly romantic, except that’s a terrible and inaccurate description. But those moments gave me a lot of the same feels that I get when I read my favorite romantic moments.
Martha Wells is a smart writer. She makes a lot of points about the evils of letting corporations run the universe obliquely. Like most of us, Murderbot doesn’t spend time explaining how the universe works unless it’s impacting them directly. Because we are so immersed in Murderbot’s perspective, the evils of the Corporate Rim are constant background noise that occasionally come into sharp focus. We don’t know how the universe got to be the way it is, why, or really, even how the universe is. Wells gives us occasional often disconnected details, making us do the work building a picture of the state of humanity. (It sucks.) She distracts us with action and snark and plants seeds of ideas about the worth of personhood and the value of systems that respect personhood.
I really hope Wells will continue to write Murderbot. There’s so much universe for them to discover.
In a low voice, Ratthi commented to Overse, “Anyone who thinks machine intelligences don’t have feelings needs to be in this very uncomfortable room right now.”