Thursday, 9 July 2020
#CBR12 Books 34-37: "The Murderbot Diaries" by Martha Wells
Total rating for the series: 4.5 stars
#CBR12Bingo: Gateway (this would work as an excellent gateway into sci-fi fiction)
All Systems Red - 4.5 stars
I have reviewed this first novella before, back in 2018, and my original post can be found here. I decided to re-read this first Murderbot story and then read the following three novellas in preparation of the full novel about everyone's favourite misanthropic sec unit, being released in May 2020. By now, when I've finally gotten around to writing my review, the book has of course been out for several months, and I have yet to find the time to read it (June REALLY wasn't a particularly good month for me, reading-wise).
Murderbot, of course, wishes that everyone would just leave it alone to enjoy all its downloaded entertainment, but instead, the humans they're supposed to protect keep getting into scrapes and it has to do its job as a Sec Unit. Once we went into lockdown, I would have happily just self-isolated at home and binge-watched Netflix and HBO, but instead I had to take care of and entertain a rapidly developing two-year-old, and remote teach up to ninety teenagers a week (15 of which I also had to call at least once a week to make sure they were doing OK), while my own mental health steadily deteriorated. Honestly, Murderbot is way better at performing its duties in a high-pressure environment than I have been for the last few months.
It was nice to revisit the beginning and get re-familiarised with the crew that got Murderbot to start feeling all those inconvenient feelings and emotions.
Artificial Condition - 4.5 stars
Murderbot doesn't want to become anyone's "pet" Sec Unit, instead, it goes off on its own, trying to figure out what actually happened in the mining disaster where it killed a number of humans and actually became Murderbot. Discovering the truth of the past will also help Dr Mensah, the kind human who technically now owns Murderbot, as further evidence against the big corporation that may or may not have tried to kill Dr Mensah, Murderbot and their entire crew can only come in handy.
Murderbot makes a new friend, who is even smarter than it is, a Research Vessel going by ART. After a slightly tense and antagonistic start to their relationship, Murderbot and ART bond over their love for space soaps.
Along the way on its new mission, Murderbot also encounters some new humans that it starts feeling protective of. It's all very inconvenient.
Of course, Murderbot's further adventures are just as entertaining, if not better, than the first novella. I really liked ART, and the friendship that developed between it and Murderbot. I also really like how Martha Wells manages to include slower, more introspective passages with tense and fast-paced action scenes, as well as more chances for Murderbot to develop and become more of its own individual.
Rogue Protocol - 4.5 stars
Murderbot continues in its quest to gather evidence against the evil GreyCris corporation and ends up on another mission, protecting hapless humans who don't know to take proper care of themselves. Murderbot needs to find an identity of its own because it's certainly no longer a proper SecUnit, but it's also not a human, nor does it want to become one. In this story, Murderbot meets a group of people travelling with a bot, who they treat with kindness and respect, a bit like a pet (the very fate Murderbot wishes to avoid). Yet Miki the bot, who is all that is optimistic and naive, so pretty much the diametrical opposite of Murderbot, comes to teach Murderbot some important lessons.
While Miki was an interesting character to introduce, I missed Murderbot's snarky friendship with ART in this one. It's also clear that the story is moving towards reuniting Murderbot with its first crew, and I kind of just wished the story would get to that place. Of the four novellas, this was my least favourite. By all means, very good, but it felt more of a bridging story than the others.
Exit Strategy - 5 stars
Murderbot still fights the notion that it has emotions or feelings, but it's pretty much the only thing that can explain why Murderbot decides to expose itself to danger when its actions in the previous story now means that GreyCris, the corrupt corporation that previously tried to kill Dr Mensah and her crew (while Murderbot was hired to protect them) in fact means has been able to take Dr Mensah hostage. Murderbot still doesn't want to be anyone's pet android, but Dr Mensah and her crew always treated Murderbot with respect and sometimes even kindness, and it cannot stand by and let GreyCris win.
Murderbot has to reunite with its old crew, convince them that it wants to help, then they have to find Mensah and rescue her, with everyone hopefully making it back to Preservation in one piece. Of course, Murderbot doubts it will be joining the others, it seems like GreyCris are pretty determined to take it down, once and for all.
As a lot of long-time readers of my reviews know, I don't tend to read a lot of sci-fi. I'm reading more of it since I started going to my local nerd bookstore's monthly book club since we alternate a fantasy and a sci-fi book every other month. Yet the Murderbot novellas are sci-fi that I thoroughly enjoy, probably because it's very heavily character-driven (even if our protagonist is not a human) and there is a very good balance of exciting action scenes and quieter introspective scenes where Murderbot has to interact with others and further develop as an individual. I'm very glad that Martha Wells has written a full-length novel about Murderbot now, and that there seems to be another coming out in 2021. I adore Murderbot's snary, misanthropic but secretly emotional self. I will happily keep reading whatever Ms. Wells chooses to publish.
Judging the books by their covers: All the novellas in the Murderbot series have very elegantly designed covers with a thoroughly science fiction feel. I don't think you'd doubt for a second what genre of book this was, with any of them.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.