the last thing I recommend is chasing your own happiness. It may even do more harm than good.
“Possibly I was overthinking this. I do that; it’s the anxiety that comes with being a part-organic murderbot. The upside was paranoid attention to detail. The downside was also paranoid attention to detail.” (14)
As I had hoped, the fourth Murderbot Diaries volume did break the hardening pattern of the previous books. It is not a matter of the SecUnit adopting a new “family” and protecting them from malefactors. Instead, it concerns Murderbot taking up unresolved relations with humans it knew before, and trying to address a crisis it knows itself to have helped create in the first place.
Although it was a little bit longer than the earlier books, it read even faster, and I basically tore through this one in a single, lightly-interrupted sitting.
In this installment of its diaries, Murderbot continues to provide evidence that its vocation isn’t really dependent on its governor module. This third repetition of the series’ charm seems to demonstrate the entrenchment of a formula, except for the pivot promised in the penultimate paragraph (pardon the passel of plosives). As at the finish of the previous book, the “conclusion” to this one implied a discovery by Murderbot not yet shared with the reader–and the earlier one has been deferred as well. Call it a protracted epistemological cliffhanger?
Of the three books so far, this slightly longer one had pacing most like a Hollywood movie, complete with a bunch of explosions, double-crosses, and a heroic sacrifice. But of course it relied on the characterization and setting established in the previous volumes, and I can hardly imagine how most of this would be communicated cinematically, since the multiplex inhuman sensorium of the construct is one of the important ingredients of the narrative.
I’m still enjoying the series, but it needs to break form in the next book to keep my attention.
This second of the Murderbot Diaries is about the same length and scope as the first, continuing events directly from before. A significant new non-human character is introduced, but this ART (“Asshole Research Transport”) doesn’t seem to be an abiding presence for the next volume. Artificial Condition completes a “contract”-sized plot arc, but the murderbot–who assumes the name Eden in this segment–has entered into a character arc that clearly spans the whole series and reaches no point of resolution here.
The story continues to be fast-moving and entertaining. I read each of the first two novellas in two sittings, and I would probably binge my way through all six books (published so far) in under a week if my pace weren’t moderated by the process of requesting and borrowing them from the public library individually. I assume that there will be an omnibus edition once Wells has finished the series.
This first of the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is a fast and engaging read. The tale is told by the eponymous “construct”: a security unit android, something like a synthetic rent-a-cop for exoplanet missions. Murderbot has hacked its own governor module and become autonomous, and is mostly interested in consuming the Sanctuary Moon soap opera rather than doing assigned tasks. When a crisis arises to threaten the entire expedition, the self-hacked SecUnit exhibits surprising competencies while trying to conceal its liberated condition.
The best part of this book is the narrating voice of Murderbot, who is profoundly uncomfortable with social interaction, although fascinated by it, as demonstrated by the chosen diet of entertainment programming. Despite some difficulties, the humans of the crew have a much easier time treating Murderbot as a person than Murderbot does in behaving like one. A human describes Murderbot as “shy,” but that radically understates the difference of the construct’s perspective and alienation from human interaction. For all that, Murderbot’s professed laziness and apathy are endearing, as is its resentment for the incompetence of the avaricious corporation that has leased it to the crew.
I read this longish novella in two sittings. It sets up a longer series, but fully completes a plot arc within this first story.
The brilliance of the human species lies in our ability to put collective interests ahead of our own. We have the opportunity, every day, to contribute to collective efforts and others’ lives. These contributions will live on, well beyond our brief life span here on earth.
I believe we all inherently know this—which makes the gap between what we’re currently contributing and what we have the ability to contribute all the more frustrating.