Artificial Condition is the second book in the Murderbot Diaries, and stands out as one of the best because it is Murderbot’s first encounter with ART, aka Asshole Research Transport.
Murderbot is hopping transports like an old time Steinbeck character hopping the railways. For the most part it’s able to parlay secret passage by offering to open its media collection to the AI bot pilot transports who handle transit and freight. That is, until it accidentally encounters a bot pilot who is a super-intelligent AI, and that super-intelligent AI immediately spots that Murderbot is a rogue SecUnit and casually threatens to murder it if it behaves dangerously at all. Murderbot in turn plans a collection of maneuvers that would result in mutually assured destruction, but ultimately they just decide to watch media together.
ART bouncing off of Murderbot is hilarious. ART is coded as more neuro-divergent then Murderbot is, and needs to observe media through Murderbot’s filter in order to understand the emotions on screen. ART is also proud and aware of how powerful it is, so it winds up grumpy and trying to play off emotions, such as when it panics at seeing a crew of humans in danger during one of the shows. ART is also also a born problem-solver, so when it learns that Murderbot is trying to find out about its past as a dangerous rogue prior to the damage to its governor-module, it extends its logic-processing to the problem and offers to help, including by giving Murderbot surgical alterations to help it pass as a more human traveler and be less likely to get caught as a rogue.
There is a plot as well, lots of sci-fi daring-do, but frankly it just isn’t as fun as the slice of life in watching these two ickle baby murder machines learn how to human with one another. Another 11/10, max recommend.