For self care, I started reading the second Murderbot novella the day after the election. I then proceeded to blitzkrieg my way through the other two novellas and the novel. Once I was finished I realized I couldn’t separate the books well enough to write reviews. I was going to give myself review amnesty but instead decided to re-read at least the novellas and write a review immediately after each book.
On this re-read, I’ve been thinking about the function of each book. All Systems Red was our introduction to Murderbot and it’s world. Artificial Condition shows Murderbot that artificial constructs, of all types, can have relationships with each other and what it’s like to be part of a team with humans, even if it had to maintain an illusion of being an augmented human. Rogue Protocol has Murderbot see the depths of connection that can form between a construct and a human and how it can be a valued member of team as it’s actual SecUnit self. In Exit Strategy, Murderbot is given the responsibility to do it’s job (protecting humans) with a group of humans that knows and trusts Murderbot. For once, Murderbot is able to use all it’s abilities, no longer impersonating an augmented human or standard SecUnit.
Along the way, Murderbot has continually worked on improving it’s hacking abilities. Going from simple, but anxiety inducing, hacking of weapons scans while moving around stations, to skillfully infiltrating and manipulating multiple systems at a time. By continually stretching it’s limits, Murderbot finds itself improving neural pathways and processing space.
Finding “The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon”, helped to start giving Murderbot context for the emotions it was experiencing after hacking it’s governing model. As Murderbot develops new relationships between bots/constructs and humans it begins to understand it’s own feelings and desires. Moving further away from it’s standard SecUnit beginnings and forming into an individual. Wells delivers an amazing character study in “The Murderbot Diaries”.
Artificial Condition: is the second volume in the “Murderbot Diaries”. When last we saw Murderbot, it had slipped away from Dr. Mensah onto a transport shuttle heading away from Free Port Commerce. For the first time, it isn’t under a directive and needs to figure out what to do with itself. As attractive as endlessly riding bot driven transports and watching media for the rest of existence was, Murderbot knew that wasn’t what it really wanted.
I liked protecting people and things. I liked figuring out smart ways to protect people and things. I liked being right.
But before figuring out how to go forward, Murderbot decides it must find out the truth of it’s past and the mine explosion that is linked to the hacking of it’s governing module. In order, to do that Murderbot will have to move through human spaces and remain undetected as a rogue SecUnit.
Murderbot struggles with anxiety and how to interact with humans. It also is coming to realize that the world of constructs, bots, and the possibilities of their interactions has been extremely limited due to the bias that constructs/bots can’t be friends because humans can cause them to turn on one another. Murderbot learns that what it is to become friends with an asshole research transport (ART) and has his first interaction with a construct that works for humans but wants freedom.
Having it’s own freedom has provided quandaries for Murderbot but a job helping a group of humans, and for once being an active part of team as opposed to a tool, puts into perspective what Murderbot wants. However, it is filled with uncertainty over whether to follow through with a plan or not.
This book was a particular delight because I adored ART, the over bearing, big brother that Murderbot never wanted but grew to appreciate. As this was my second read through, I caught a bit of foreshadowing for the video documentary project in the future.
But there weren’t any depictions of SecUnits in the books, either. I guess you can’t tell a story for the point of view of something that you don’t think has a point of view.
Rogue Protocol: Concern for Dr. Mensah has Murderbot regularly checking the feeds for updates about her situation with the predatory GrayCris corporation. While trying to figure out it’s next steps, Murderbot catches an interview with Dr. Mensah speculating on GrayCris’s motives regarding a failed terraforming facility that had been abandoned. Murderbot finds itself wanting to help Dr. Mensah and also hopefully deflect from the fact that there is a rogue SecUnit wandering around.
This time there are not enough humans around to hide in a crowd, and the ones who are on the station, are familiar with SecUnits, for Murderbot to try and get by as an augmented human. More sneaking around is required but fortunately Murderbot has gotten a lot better at hacking security and port authority systems, which has led to decreased anxiety for it. But hacking won’t get it to the terraforming facility, so Murderbot begrudgingly “befriends” another bot, Miki, who is part of a survey crew. Of course things start to go sideways shortly after landing and Murderbot becomes part of a team with a group of humans, in a situation they are hopelessly unqualified to be in, and Murderbot flourishes by being it’s SecUnit self.
At first Murderbot is disgusted by Miki and the fact that it seems to be a “pet bot” of the crew leader, Don Abene. But over the course of the adventure Murderbot finds their relationship has far more depth. The revelation of what a human/construct connection can be like shakes Murderbot. By the conclusion, Muderbot has a better idea what it wants to do with freedom.
Exit Strategy: Having secured important information on Milu, Murderbot is on it’s way back to Dr. Mensah, only to discover that Dr. Mensah is being held hostage by GrayCris. The situation is further complicated by GrayCris hiring a bond company to provide security, including SecUnits. By combing through news stories, Murderbot has deduced that several other members of Dr. Mensah’s team are also on the transit ring. It’s best hope of gaining information and being able to rescue Dr. Mensah is to reconnect with old “friends”.
The uncertainty of how it would be received causes Murderbot anxiety but it finds itself quickly enfolded back into the group and given position of authority on how to rescue Dr. Mensah. A not-s0-terrible plan is put together but things quickly go sideways as GrayCris realizes they’ve been brought to the table under false pretenses.
What follows is an exciting, nearly non-stop action sequence until the end of the book. Everyone knows Murderbot so it can finally perform at it’s full potential. Pressing itself to the limit, with nearly catastrophic results, in a finally daring save at the climax. The end of Exit Strategy finds Murderbot still not know the all answers to what it wants, but finally in a place where taking as much time as necessary figuring out what happens next, is a viable option.