Network Effect – The Murderbot Diaries #5
Sunday May 17, 2020 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | book review
At first, I was taken aback by how short the stories were and they were priced like a novel. I was slightly miffed, but once I started listening to All Systems Red, I forgot about the cost and fell in like with Murderbot. The series is fun, and action packed, and Murderbot is a sarcastic crankypants filled with anxiety and social awkwardness, and I can’t get enough of it. I raced through the entire catalog in a matter of days and was excited to see the first novel length story was about to come out. The first story won the Hugo in the novella category this past year and it’s well deserved.
This from Martha Wells’ Newsweek interview:
Murderbot is a science fiction series, set in the very far future. The Murderbot character is a person who is called a construct—part robot, part human-cloned tissue. They’re called SecUnits and they were designed to be security, to protect people and be able to do the kind of dirty jobs people don’t want to do anymore.
This from the publisher:
Murderbot returns in its highly-anticipated, first, full-length standalone novel.
You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.
Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.
SecUnit, as it is referred to by its handlers, is an introvert of the highest order. It goes out of its way to avoid human contact, especially face-to-face interaction. It has a hard time dealing with the pressure of eye contact. It refers to itself as Murderbot, originally designed to work as a security robot to protect humans, but really it has a soft mushy center that cares, but has trouble admitting it.
It has managed to hack its governor module, and now operates on its own volition, trying to navigate its way through human society, protecting its clients, while at the same time avoiding them and not letting on that it is controlling its own destiny. What it would rather be doing is watching serial vids, but things just keep getting in the way. Its clients keep getting into life-threatening trouble and despite itself it goes to the rescue.
In Network Effect we revisit one of Murderbots associates, it wouldn’t say friends, it would say mutual administrative assistance, a ship AI it calls ART, Asshole Research Transport. ART is also snarky as hell and the banter between them is priceless. They are more human than some people I know. I was very happy to spend more time with Murderbot in a longer story, that gave Wells a chance to really get into the head of the lovable killing machine. Wells is an anthropologist and it shows in the character development. The story moves at a fast clip for most of these, and the tech is always surprisingly believable. The fight scenes are all amazing and tight. But the best thing about these stories is simply spending time with the antisocial bot.
Kevin R. Free reads for Audible and he kills it. His pacing an intonation are on the money. He embodies Murderbot perfectly.
I can’t wait for the next one in the series.