BooksOfTheMoon

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries, #6)

By Martha Wells

Rating: 4 stars

There’s been a murder on Preservation station, and no, it wasn’t Murderbot, it would have hidden the body way better. But it reluctantly joins the team assigned to investigate, and has to spend valuable media time voluntarily talking to people.

I’ve loved every Murderbot story I’ve read to date, and this novella does nothing to change that. Against its better instinct, our favourite failed psychopathic killer is learning to interact with the people around it in the open, not pretending to be an augmented human or hiding behind a faceless helmet. In other words, learning to be a person itself.

The mystery here is as twisty as you’d expect from Wells with a number of satisfying twists and turns. We mostly get a new supporting cast here, particularly Indah, the senior investigating officer, and Special Investigator Aylen, and while some of the people we know already do make cameos, they’re mostly off-stage, or brief. Indah is interesting, as the senior officer who really doesn’t like the idea of a rogue SecUnit running around without anyone watching it. It’s classic buddy-cop, as the initially antagonistic relationship grows, on both sides, into grudging respect.

There are few big action scenes in this book, but it’s always special when we do get one, and Murderbot shows off what it can do. But mostly it’s a murder mystery, and follows those tropes. (There’s no “I expect you’re wondering why I’ve called you all here…”, but it would have been brilliant if there had been!)

I couldn’t quite figure out where this fit in the timeline of the series, but after a bit of thought, I think it comes after Exit Strategy and before Network Effect, since the events of the latter aren’t mentioned (and there was quite some fallout from that). It’s pretty standalone, so can nominally be read without any knowledge of the rest of the series, but I’d still suggest reading all the other novellas before reading this one. That way you’ll have have an idea of Murderbot’s character and care about it and the people that it has come to care for.

Book details

ISBN: 9781250765376
Publisher: Tor.com
Year of publication: 2021

Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries, #5)

By Martha Wells

Rating: 5 stars

Now living on Preservation and working security for Dr Mensah, Murderbot is currently assigned to a survey team. It successfully gets them away from pirates on the survey planet, but as they return home to Preservation, they’re attacked by an unknown vessel. Murderbot and Dr Mensah’s daughter Amena are captured and taken to an unknown system. Our friendly rogue SecUnit is miffed when it reboots after being knocked out, but that’s nothing compared to how it’ll feel once it finds out what ship it’s on.

I love the narrative voice that Wells uses for MurderBot. It’s self-assured, snarky, and vulnerable, all at once. It’s a joy to read, whether it’s describing violence against things that are trying to harm MurderBot’s humans, or trying, and often failing, to avoid having feelings that aren’t related to media.

This being a full novel rather than a novella, we have more space to let the characters develop. We get to spend a bit more time with Arada and Overse, as well as getting to meet new characters, like Amena, who has a knack of getting under MurderBot’s skin to some degree and understand its feelings. It also leads to a more complicated plot, including the welcome return of ART, from Artificial Condition. I did struggle at times to keep track of the various lost colonies and who was from what polity and what they all wanted. But it was totally worth it, and I’ll be reading it again at some point. Now that I know what happens, I can focus on the details on the next read (well, that’s the theory at least, Wells keeps the whole thing ticking over at a breakneck pace, without much in the way of chance to catch your breath, so I suspect I’ll be just as desperate to read the next chapter next time round too).

If you’re already a fan of MurderBot, you’ll love this. If you’re not, technically you could read this without reading the preceding novellas, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s best if you get to know MurderBot, Mensah and the other humans and it cares about, and, of course, ART. Then, by the time you get here, you’ll be a fan of MurderBot.

And now that I’m finally finished this review, I can go back to enjoying my media…

Book details

ISBN: 9781250229861
Year of publication: 2020

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries, #4)

By Martha Wells

Rating: 4 stars

Murderbot is on its way back to Dr Mensah, with additional evidence against the shady-to-full-blown-evil GrayCris corporation when it discovers that she’s been kidnapped. So, once again ignoring its Risk Assessment Module, it immediately goes off to rescue her. En route, it runs into some old acquaintances (friends, Murderbot, they’re your friends) and has more Feelings that aren’t about entertainment media.

Like the rest of the Murderbot books, this is fun, pacy, and with more emotional punch than you would expect from a sarcastic, misanthropic killbot. Despite its best efforts, Murderbot really does care. It wants to protect those who were kind to it and who treat it like a person, and it wants to beat (in both senses of the word) those who are trying to harm them.

It’s not world-shattering stuff. It’s pretty lightweight, and popcorn reading, but it’s good at what it does and is highly entertaining. Recommended.

Like the others in the series, this is short, easily readable in a couple of hours. I got given the middle two volumes in the series as a birthday present, which is what then pushed me to pick up this final novella, as otherwise I probably wouldn’t have bothered, given that they’re priced close to full-sized novels. If Tor releases the novellas as a pretty omnibus on paper, they’ll have a built-in market (I’d certainly buy it, despite now owning all of them in electronic format). Come on Tor, why won’t you take my money?!

Book details

Publisher: Tor.com
Year of publication: 2018

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries, #3)

By Martha Wells

Rating: 5 stars

The third Murderbot novella sees M leave his pal ART and aim for an abandoned terraforming project that was carried out by GreyCris, the ever-more-evil corporation that tried to kill it and its humans in the first book. It’s looking for evidence that there were more shady dealings going on here, that it can feed back to help shore up the case against them, and totally not because it feels guilty at how harried his favourite human from that group looks since it disappeared.

This book widens the world a bit as it introduces Miki, a bot that is integrated into the group trying to take over the abandoned terraforming project and who is treated like a person. Murderbot treats Miki somewhere between contempt and envy as it, once again, poses as a security consultant to try and get what it needs, and finds itself unable to abandon its charges when things go pear-shaped, as they inevitably do around our favourite soap-addicted, murdering, wannabe-misanthrope.

Despite Murderbot’s disdain, I really liked Miki and the relationships it had obviously formed with those around it, including its nominal owner, Don Abene. Miki has led a sheltered life (up to this point) without even knowing what a SecUnit is and has an open, trusting nature that contrasts pleasingly with Murderbot’s cynicism.

I must confess that I didn’t see the twist coming (plus ├ža change), but it worked well. And this one made me Have Feelings by the end of it! And ending on a (sort of) cliffhanger! I shall be moving swiftly on to the next, and final, novella in the sequence.

Book details

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2)

By Martha Wells

Rating: 4 stars

Murderbot got its clients away from the really quite nasty GreyCris corporation on the survey world it had been guarding them on, and after its client bought it, just walked away. Now it decides that it needs to know about its past, about the event that caused it to give itself that name. Aided by a research transport vessel, it ends up taking on a small group of clients as a security consultant and finds that despite what it wants, it cares about them too much to skip out on them.

Murderbot is, despite, you know, the whole murder thing, a delightful protagonist. It’s fun and sarky and, despite its best intentions, isn’t nearly as misanthropic as it wants to be. It just wants to be left alone to watch space-Netflix all day, but instead keeps getting involved with humans it can’t bear to leave to die horribly.

While I’m still not convinced about any society that creates sentient cyborgs and then enslaves them, I think that Wells has given us enough hints that a) she doesn’t consider this to be a place anyone would want to live and b) not the whole of human space is like the bit that built Murderbot.

The research transport that Murderbot sort of befriends (ART) is a lot of fun, and you can’t help wanting to protect its clients/cover story, as they’re young, innocent and just adorable.

Final thought: Murderbot is horrified at the idea of being hugged. I would do some murdering of my own for a hug right now (stupid coronavirus).

Book details

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)

By Martha Wells

Rating: 4 stars

I enjoyed this little novella quite a lot. A friend has raved about the Murderbot books for quite a while and after finally acquiring an ebook reader, I picked this up. Our protagonist is a SecUnit, a cyborg, with a piece of software designed to keep it under control at all times. Murderbot, as it refers to itself, hacked its ‘governor’ but rather than going on a killing spree, it prefers to download and watch serials and other entertainment, while putting minimal effort into its actual job as a security detail, at the moment for a survey team on a planet that may be available for colonisation.

Murderbot is cynical, misanthropic and gets very uncomfortable talking about its feelings. (So it’s British then.) But under that shield of armour and bravado there’s a kind being that wants to protect its humans. And there’s a lot of scope for world-building and in the idea of the ‘Units’, which appear to be sentient, and could be regarded as slaves.

I really like Murderbot as a character and would like to read more about it. Unfortunately, the novella format works against this, as they’re short (easily read in a couple of hours), but priced equivalent to a full length novel (other than the first one, which, I assume, has a lower price to act as a hook). I hope that an omnibus edition appears at some point, as I really want to see what Murderbot does next.

Book details

Publisher: Tor.com
Year of publication: 2017

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