In Artificial Condition, we meet back up with Murderbot not too long after it left Dr. Mensah’s group. Its goal is to find out what happened to it about 35,000 hours ago when it murdered several humans in what it was told was a failure of its programming, but most of its memory of the event was wiped and it wants more information. To do that it boards an empty research transport that’s headed in the direction it wants to go. The transport vessel ends up being a lot more communicative with Murderbot than it expected, hence Murderbot naming it ART (for Asshole Research Transport). I do find it amusing that one of Murderbot’s gripes with ART is how sarcastic it is, when Murderbot itself is more than a little prone to sarcasm.
While aboard ART, which Murderbot kinda sorta makes friends with, it undergoes surgery to make it appear less like a SecUnit and more like an augmented human to avoid attracting unwanted attention. It also accepts a job as security for researchers so it has a plausible reason to go to the planet it wants to go to. As in the first novella, Murderbot ends up becoming somewhat attached to the humans it’s protecting and has to navigate their security while also seeking out information about its past murder history.
I had a little trouble getting into the next book, Rogue Protocol. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it’s because there wasn’t much interaction between Murderbot and other people or bots at the beginning. There was a lot of description about ships, stations, transit rings, and other scifi jargon that I had trouble keeping track of and picturing in my head, although I’m guessing this is a “me” issue and not an issue with the novella itself.
In Rogue Protocol, Murderbot has decided to go to the planet Milu, on which a facility had been abandoned by GrayCris (the bad guys from All Systems Red). It expects that GrayCris had been engaged in shady practices there (and everywhere, really) and hopes to find evidence of that to pass along to Dr. Mensah, so the investigation into the events from All Systems Red can be put to rest. Along the way, it once again comes across a group of humans that need protection, and as much as Murderbot wants to not care about them, as usual it can’t let go of its habit/programming of protecting others. Once Murderbot began interacting with a human-form bot named Miki, and then the humans, I became much more engaged than I was at the beginning of the novella.
In the last novella, Exit Strategy, we meet back up with old friends. Now that Murderbot has evidence about GrayCris’s illicit activities, it wants to pass that information along to Dr. Mensah, but Murderbot discovers that Dr. Mensah is missing. It goes on a mission to find out where she is and why, and joins in with some of the other characters from the first book to stage a rescue mission.
I enjoyed meeting up with those characters again and seeing Murderbot’s interactions with them. They tend to bring up a lot of emotions in Murderbot, especially Dr. Mensah, which seems to maybe lead to some growth in Murderbot. I also, once again, found myself more engaged once Murderbot was interacting with other characters rather than just making its way through transit rings and hacking security systems.
I’ve enjoyed how Martha Wells handles gender and descriptions of characters in general. Appearance and gender isn’t something Murderbot is likely to care about, so there is relatively little description of how characters look, and you don’t typically know the gender of a character until Murderbot uses a pronoun. The main exception is in Artificial Condition, where one of the characters has a nonbinary gender, which I also appreciate the inclusion of. It’s an unusual approach that surprisingly hasn’t been difficult to adjust to when it comes to trying to picture the scenes in my head.