Fugitive Telemetry (CBR13 #64)

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries, #6)

We have a Murderbot murder mystery novella. It is almost as if this book was written specifically for me. Although published after Network Effect, Fugitive Telemetry takes place before it, after Mensah brings Murderbot to Preservation Station. We join action in progress as a body has been discovered on the Station and Murderbot accompanies Dr. Mensah and Senior Officer Indah as an investigation is undertaken. Dr. Mensah does her Dr. Mensah thing and Murderbot is contracted to aid in the investigation (neither Murderbot not Senior Indah are super excited about that) and we follow as Murderbot does what Murderbot does, following the information to find out how the human got dead, and who is responsible for that death.

We see on page the continuing growth of Murderbot’s personhood and the practical ways it goes about figuring out how to communicate with humans that are not its humans for the best result for everyone. Which is of course complicated by the Station security and investigators not trusting Murderbot at all, and having made Murderbot promise to not hack into SecSystem (which Murderbot abides by, its word matters). I enjoyed immensely getting to see Murderbot interact with its people (Ratthi and Gurathin play parts in Murderbot’s investigation and then just keep checking in on it and its progress and safety) and humans who are not its humans (there’s a really great cast of investigator characters), as well as bots (I love me some JollyBaby). I also appreciated the way the mystery expanded naturally from the murdered human to the circumstances around its death, and how it ripples out into the greater world of Preservation Station.

What I have always loved about the character of Murderbot, and the function of SecUnit’s in the first place, is that it is designed to protect humans and fuck everything or anything else. Yes, Murderbot is both full of weapons and in a certain respect a weapon itself, but there’s a moment late in the novella where Murderbot feels like itself because it gets to make a plan that is a SecUnit plan, not a CombatUnit plan and I smiled from ear to ear.This outing felt like a delightful episode of media and I think I’m going to go ahead and round it up to 5 stars.

Network Effect (CBR13 #48)

Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries, #5)

It has been almost three years since I last ventured into the land of Murderbot (January 2019) and while I had to wait like everyone else for Network Effect to publish, I also put it off a little while, over a year in fact. I blame Pandemic brain. Because the minute I picked this one up, I was back with Murderbot and it felt like almost no time at all since I last visited this part of fictional space. Wells has an incredibly strong authorial voice, which becomes even more evident late in the book. Murderbot is still working out this whole “person” thing, and continues to hate humans looking at it and seeing the details of its personhood and not just the shell of a SecUnit but it is getting better (more comfortable? More accepting?) at figuring out how to communicate with its humans for the best result for everyone. Usually. Although it becomes deeply uncomfortable, awkward, and anxious just as easily as it did back in book one, All Systems Red.

This story continues Wells’ unpacking the nature of relationships and our humanity. Murderbot is actively telling us the story and since Murderbot is self-referential and sarcastic it keeps the narrative moving at a brisk pace. We meet ART again (I still love it very much) and Dr. Mensah, her family, and her team are also here. Dr. Mensah continues to bring out the person in Murderbot in a way no other character does, with the exception possibly of her daughter Amena, as the story progresses. In broadest strokes the plot of this one is that Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, let’s not be crazy here. Well except maybe Ratthi.) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action. So drastic action it is, then.

Murderbot still has to act within a system that would dismantle it, if its autonomy were known. That trapped feeling of the mix of trauma, depression, and anxiety all at odds with a desire for understanding and true independence makes Murderbot an incredibly compelling character, and that’s before we get into the never-ending job of keeping its humans alive. My only real complaint is that it felt like this book took a long time to get really going. The first hundred pages (of 350) are really setting up the story, and include some flashforwards (flashbacks? The HelpMe.file excerpts are hard to describe) that are not explained until much later.  But even through that there is a lot of action happening (and a lot of emotions) (Even Murderbot will agree to that). Because – and if I had read narfna’s review earlier I would have known this going in – Network Effect is also a romance. ART and Murderbot’s relationship goes through so many of the major plot points of romance, and I say this knowing full well that we’re talking about an asexual android and bodiless A.I. It’s a beautiful arc and the main reason I’m including this book in my Read Women Task 16: a book featuring a queer love story (and there’s a lot of other queer relationships running around in this book as well).

This story shows a lot of growth, both for Murderbot and those around it. I wondered about the title of the book when I got done, thinking I knew what it was after, and a quick search told me I was correct since the titular Network Effect is a phenomenon whereby a product or service gains additional value as more people use it. Sounds about right to me.

Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy – Muderbot Diaries (CBR11 #1-3)

Late last year I read Martha Wells’ All Systems Red the first book in her Hugo, Nebula, Alex, and Locus Award-winning, and bestselling series, The Murderbot Diaries. The series features a human-like android who keeps getting sucked back into one adventure after another, even though it just wants to be left alone, away from humanity and small talk. Its perfect day is holed up somewhere dark and quiet with its entertainment feed. I can relate.

I travel the last two weeks of the year to see family and friends for the holidays and that means no less than three flights and various amounts of time in airports. I usually take a break from reading and reviewing during those two weeks to recharge and only read something light and fluffy that I can pick up and put down between flights. I thought the next three Murderbot novellas would be perfect for that goal, and I wasn’t wrong, although I vastly underestimated how long they would take to read (in my defense ASR is only 90 pages on my nook, the other three are all over 150 pages so I had nearly double the amount of reading to do than I thought).

Artificial Condition

“It has a dark past – one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself Murderbot. But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more. Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART, Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue. What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…”

The second novella picks up with Murderbot on the run having left Dr. Mensah and her team to deal with the fallout of the action in All Systems Red the newly free Murderbot is on a mission of self rediscovery, heading back to the place where it thinks it killed all those people and knows it had its memory wiped. While on the hunt for its own history Murderbot picks up a new friend in ART (whom I also adored, so competent much helpful) and a new cadre of humans in need of being kept alive.

Murderbot is actively telling us the story and it could be off-putting, but since Murderbot is self-referential and sarcastic it keeps the narrative moving along quite well. Wells also explains the corporate centric nature of her future as well as the differences between constructs such as Murderbot and augmented humans in such a clear way that the reader isn’t lost in the jargon but instead immediately understands what it is that Murderbot is facing at each turn as it struggles to get its own information, blend in as an augmented human security consultant, and keep those pesky programmers alive.

Rogue Protocol

“Who knew being a heartless killing machine would present so many moral dilemmas? The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah’s SecUnit is. And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.”

I enjoyed this one less than the previous two, and I think its because I never really connected to the non-Murderbot characters (Miki was nice and all, but no match for ART or Dr. Mensah). Based on what it learned in Artificial Condition Murderbot is off in search of the next piece in the puzzle that connects its own past to what happened on its mission with Dr. Mensah’s team. We have a relatively similar set-up to the previous outing, hitch a ride on a transport, meet a “friend”, accidentally end up with a human client in need of being kept alive (whether they know it or not), and a hunt for information and a fight to get out alive. Like I said, its good, I just didn’t love it as much as its predecessors.

Exit Strategy

“The fourth and final part of the Murderbot Diaries series that began with All Systems Red. Murderbot wasn’t programmed to care. So, its decision to help the only human who ever showed it respect must be a system glitch, right? Having traveled the width of the galaxy to unearth details of its own murderous transgressions, as well as those of the GrayCris Corporation, Murderbot is heading to help Dr. Mensah—its former owner (protector? friend?)— to prevent GrayCris from destroying more colonists in its never-ending quest for profit. But who’s going to believe a SecUnit gone rogue? And what will become of it when it’s caught?”

With the fourth installment we are back to the Muderbot relationships we know and love. Dr. Mensah brings out the human in Murderbot in a way no other character does. This story is also action packed – we have to get to Mensah, find Mensah, free Mensah, and then survive long enough to get back to Preservation… where Murderbot has to literally discover who it was and who it wants to be.

I’m counting these three for task 7 in the Read Women 2019 Challenge, read a book featuring a female scientist – these books are LITTERED with female scientists. So many in fact my brain kept forgetting that it was mostly reading about women outside of Murderbot (who has no gender). Wells packs her works full of supporting and tertiary female and third-gendered (ter) or non-gendered characters where more traditional or conventional writers would have had strictly male characters. A boon for us all and a refreshing change of pace.

These books were read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.