Well, well, well, guess who had some catching up to do before ordering that new MurderBot Novel?
Me. It was me. It’s not like I’m going out anywhere – more like I’m sitting at home re-watching series Murderbot style. So I made some time for myself earlier this month and finally read the last two Murderbot novellas.
In Rogue Protocol, Muderbot has been thinking of leaving the Corporate Rim. While they’re better at passing as human these days, they still worry about getting caught. But at the same time, they’re also preoccupied with the actions of their former company/owner GrayCris, who are still acting as dodgy as all hell. When Murderbot hears about a failed terraforming attempt that has their fingerprints all over it, they decide to head to the planet Milu to investigate. Hopefully, they can chase up something that would bring the bastards down.
After stowing away on a shuttle, Murderbot has a run-in with an assessment team on Milu who are acting on behalf of the planet’s new owner. Murderbot decides to masquerade as both a SecUnit and the security consultant who owns them, as part of a convoluted dodge they made up on the fly to conceal their real reasons for being there. Murderbot seemed very annoyed with themselves for getting into this mess, and this little charade was rather funny to watch.
One of the more stressful characters that Murderbot deals with in Rogue Protocol is another humanoid robot named Miki. While the head of the assessment team, Don Abene, is very fond of Miki, I found their whole relationship a little too house-elfy and unnerving for my liking. I knew as soon as they were introduced that Miki’s childlike, innocent personality was going to clash hard with Murderbot’s more cynical side. One of Muderbot’s worries in the first novella was that Dr. Mensah wanted them to stay on as some kind of pet SecUnit – something that gave them so much discomfort that it motivated them to leave. So having Miki running around like a puppy while Murderbot tried to take care of the hapless humans leads to them having to deal with some uncomfortable feelings later. While Murderbot seems to hate introspection, they seem to end up doing it a lot.
What I did find interesting here though, was more mentions of an alien civilization. I had to go back to the previous two books to check, but while the first book was on an alien planet, and ART mentioned something about reminants in the second, this is not really something that has received much attention, and I’m really curious as to what’s going on.
In Exit Strategy, Murderbot now has all the evidence they need about the horrific corporate misdeeds of GrayCris. They just need to relay this information to Dr. Mensah. Unfortunately, GrayCris thinks the doctor was involved in the drama on Milu, and sweeps in with a kidnap attempt. So Muderbot sets out on a rescue operation, reuniting with the crew of the Preservation Aux in the process.
I really enjoyed Exit Strategy more than Rogue Protocol. Muderbot gets up to some very Ocean’s 11 style hacking shenanigans, as well as some well-paced action on their fight to rescue Dr. Mensah. But the fight scenes are probably not the main reason any of us are picking up any of the Murderbot diaries – it’s all about Murderbot’s growth. And a lot of that has happened since ditching the crew of Preservation Aux in book one and reuniting with them here. As much as Murderbot still acts as the introvert’s introvert, and as much as they claim they don’t like interacting with people very much, I have to say they are getting very good at it. One of the things they’ve had to learn to do in order to blend in and not get pinged as a SecUnit is to master human-like activities. This now means they’ve gotten very good at recognising when humans are displaying abnormal behaviour; and as a result, they end up quickly identifying GrayCris operatives tailing a mark. They even get empathetic enough to put aside their own discomfort in order to hug a person in distress – a significant milestone.
They still dislike Guranthin though, which I thought was pretty amusing.
The thing is though, Murderbot, while they may look more human, act more human, and desire the same rights and respect as a human; they still emphatically claim not to be human and find it bizarre that people assume that’s what they want. They still want to be able to fit in in some way, but they don’t want to have to give up their core self in order to do so. So while I think they still have a bit of work to do in order to refine their sense of self and define their place in the world, I think by the end of Exit Strategy, they are in a better place to do it than ever before.
And as a note mostly to myself: no, aliens are not expanded on in Exit Strategy. So I still don’t know what’s going to happen here. I do wonder though – if we’ve been spending all this time asking what measure is a human with regards to SecUnits who hacked themselves to freedom, will we be doing the same for aliens as well? Or is this just a backdrop for evil corporate exploitation? I would be sad if it never ends up being expanded on.
So while Rogue Protocol is more of a three for me, Exit Strategy is a solid five. So I’m splitting the difference. And I cant wait to see how things turn out in Network Effect