I’ll admit that I should have finished my re-read of the other Murderbot books before this, but this week has been a bit of a Trial and I just wanted to read something I knew I would like. And I did. I actually managed to force myself to stop about 30 minutes from the end so that I didn’t finish it too quickly. If anything, my largest gripe with this novel is that it is set a) prior to the full length novel Network Effect and b) it’s so short! It’s not even two hours long! T-T
As everyone and their mother/father/genetic parental unit knows, Murderbot is a human tissue/robot hybrid former Security Robot who hacked its control unit and, freed of its shackles, proceeded to dive straight into its true nature of misanthropic media binger forced to interact with humans (and prevent them/us from doing dumb stuff to get us killed). Its adventures are great, the books are lovely, its best friends are great, and you really should have read it all by now.
Like I noted earlier, this book takes place before Network Effect which is good because I really don’t remember what happened there. I really don’t remember what happened in books 3 or 4 either only that I enjoyed them, and I enjoyed Murderbot reconnecting with the people from Preservation Station whom it met in All Systems Red. It’s a classic closed system whodunit, which gives us all a front row seat to the real drama, which is Murderbot’s examination of what exactly it is and what it wants out of life and what life means for a (presumably immortal?) being that doesn’t fit into society but finds that it doesn’t really want to be outside it either.
I think the most keen observation comes during one of Murderbot’s original intake interviews, so to speak, when it is talking about how to adhere to Preservation Station’s rules (which, while advanced, lack a real procedure for it):
For a name, I could use the local feed address that was hard coded into my neural interfaces. It wasn’t my real name, but it was what the systems I interfaced with called me. If I used it, the humans and augmented humans I encountered would think of me as a bot. Or I could use the name Rin. I liked it, and there were some humans outside the Corporation Rim who thought it was actually my name. I could use it, and the humans on the Station wouldn’t have to think about what I was, a construct made of cloned human tissue, augments, anxiety, depression, and unfocused rage, a killing machine for whichever humans rented me, until I made a mistake and got my brain destroyed by my governor module.
We talk a lot about how people empathize with Murderbot. I’m not usually one of those people–I enjoy its adventures very much, but I don’t find myself wanted to be sequestered from society (especially not during COVID) (although my view of humanity as somewhat…dumb…has increased after seeing some of the nonsense that’s gone on). But I know this sentiment, without the cloned human tissue/killing machine bits.
It’s the same sentiment as Starbucks names, isn’t it? I could use a Starbucks name which, with my accent, would never let on to anyone that I wasn’t a white American. I could use a nickname derived from my South Asian name to help out people who have issues. But doing so would let everyone off the hook for acknowledging who I am and having to square away my appearance/name + accent/nationality. To be clear, like Murderbot I’m mostly surrounded by my own set of Pin-Lee’s and Dr. Mensah’s, who understand and accept me as a whole. I don’t spend time thinking of my name as it relates to 80% of my life. But it’s that 20% where I don’t want to concede. And where Murderbot doesn’t want to either.