Network Effect – The Murderbot Diaries #5

Network Effect

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.

Buy Network Effect here

The Last Emperox -Scalzi is on Fire!

The Last EmperoxI’ve read a lot of John Scalzi’s books, but of the one’s I’ve read this is by far the best. I absolutely loved this book. The characters are amazingly well defined and well portrayed, and straight up fun. I love old guy that is now a ship, Chenevert, a long-dead king from another Flow system, the foul mouthed Kiva Lagos, who is a contemporary of both the Emperox and the brilliant but evil Nadashe Nohamapeton, constantly scheming to kill the Emperox. I love the leader of this advanced society, Cardenia Wu Patrick also known as Emperox Grayland II, and her boyfriend and flow physicist Marce Claremont. I love the concept and even the names he uses for the characters. It is a showcase of his growing talent as a writer.

The story twists and turns and the action hardly slows down. When it does the snappy dialogue is a joy to behold. Scalzi’s sense of humor is on full display here. Better than his Hugo winning Red Shirts by a mile.

I listened to the first two on Audible and this one as well. Wil Wheaton does a spectacular job reading all three, this one especially. He knocks it out of the park with this one.

This is the last book in a trilogy set in the far future where mankind travels through space using flow streams. But the Streams are collapsing and without them the Interdependency is in great jeopardy. The society was set up 1500 years before to save humanity from civil war that was destroying everything, an now, because of the way it was set up with all the major houses dependent on each other, society will fall into revolt.

Scalzi weaves everything together perfectly but doesn’t betray the ending, leaving us with an unexpected but ultimately satisfying ending. It’s also an ending the leaves open the possibility of another series to follow this one, if Claremont takes the path that has been laid out for him. I sure hope Scalzi writes that series.

The only thing that disappoints in this trilogy is the length. It’s short by most novel standards, with the third book being shortest of all. That is not to say that it feels incomplete, because it doesn’t and ties all the threads together remarkably well. I’m just sad I finished it so quickly. I was torn because I knew it was going to end but I couldn’t stop listening to it. The entire trilogy gets my highest recommendation. If you like space opera it should be right in your wheelhouse.

I Will Never Be William Gibson – A Review of Distrust That Particular Flavor

distrustI just finished reading Distrust That Particular Flavor, and I realize that I will never be William Gibson. It is almost ironic that he is known as a futurist, when what he really is, is a historian. He is a global hunter of esoterica. A purveyor of the detritus of sociology. He takes pleasure in the suburbia of human existence, no, just the fringes of society, or more, the artistic side streets of our past. He is well-traveled and knows a lot of famous people in a wide array of fields, musicians, artists, photographers, writers and collectors among the many. He claims not to be an expert in any of these endeavors or devices, whether it be old typewriters or mechanical watches or film-making, or any of a plethora of other human enterprises. Definitely not the internet. Although, he appears to be slowly embracing it.

He wrote this book in 2013, so a lot could have changed since then.

The one way we are similar is that we seem to glam onto one particular thing at a time and spend a lot of energy getting familiar enough with it to speak the lingo, but not to really have any serious depth of understanding. I could be completely wrong about that. He strikes me as a keenly intelligent man with a gift for noticing the oddities and accouterments of our society.

He is fascinated by Japanese culture and the way they have embraced change and live on the bleeding edge of our now, leaning as far into the future as humanly possible and but still living in this current time-frame, and you can see that in a lot of his fiction. He likes haunting photography and movies, old and new, the fringier the better. At least these are my impressions after reading this book.

It is a series of non-fiction pieces he had written for different forums over the course of twenty-one years from 1989 to 2010. Essays and critical observations and speeches. Every observation is fascinating and insightful and showcases his incredible grasp of the English language in a way his fiction only hints at. The way he describes things strikes some deep chord in my soul. If you have any interest in Gibson, I highly recommend this book.

No, I will never be William Gibson, but as my wife said to me, we already have one.