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Thursday, September 10, 2020

Book Review: Murderbot Diaries #2-3-4 by Martha Wells

So I can't stop reading these books. Over Labor Day weekend, I read the first 4 Murderbot novellas in 4 days. These are:
All Systems Red #1
Artificial Condition #2
Rogue Protocol #3
Exit Strategy #4
Now, before you're super impressed, these are mostly under 100 pages (except for the last one). But also, do be impressed, because these books are AMAZING and I could not put them down!

As you may know, I am not a big sci-fi reader, but the exception proves the rule, and these books have blown me away. Murderbot is about half robot and half human, but as it explains in the first book, that doesn't mean it has two halves inside itself, fighting and misunderstanding each other. It is a single, whole being. I like to think of it as the way we full humans have two halves of our brains which don't always communicate well or have the same goals. And as it's also explained, it means SecUnits like Murderbot can think and have autonomy and personality, it also means they can experience pain and emotions, and that is the downside. But for us readers, that's the upside. Because Murderbot is funny and sarcastic and thinks humans are dumb and keep trying to (accidentally or purposefully) kill ourselves and Murderbot is surprisingly vulnerable and very protective. When Murderbot says sometimes that it just needs to look at a blank wall for a while, my heart breaks a little bit (that means it's completely overwhelmed by unfamiliar emotions--often gratitude or friendship.)

And who doesn't identify with Murderbot's love of soap operas and how it wants to have the familiar ones droning on in the background. Is it any different than when I watch The Great British Bake-Off for the hundredth time? Or Big Bang Theory or Friends? Boy do I envy Murderbot's multi- multi- multi-tasking capabilities!

Each of these four novellas is a discrete story but together, the four have an overarching plot, particularly as in book 4, the characters from book 1 all resurface. Books 2 and 3 do each have an internal story arc, but together, they are much more powerful. I just knew the Book 1 characters had to come back, although my favorite character of all has to be ART, the transport from Book 2. I was pleasantly baffled at first in that book when the initial third is just Murderbot on ART, traveling to a transit hub. They have fascinating conversations, ART is a bit of an asshole (which is what the A stands for in ART) and I really liked how Murderbot pointed out how ART is highly skilled at asking questions that get the human or SecUnit its communicating with go to the conclusion ART wants without ART forcing it (but still kind of forcing it, with the skillful questions. I bet it works a lot better on humans as we are, as Murderbot correctly points out, kind of dumb.)

I love Murderbot! I hope it gets lots of time to watch media to its heart's content at the end of all of this. And yes, I am already halfway through book 5. You should go read these! Right now! They are the perfect distraction during pandemic times.

These books are published by Tordotcom, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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