I have been enjoying the hell out of The Murderbot Diaries for only about four months. I read the first novella, “All Systems Red,” in a weekend in February and liked it so much I snapped up all three of the rest of the series of novellas – “Artificial Condition,” “Rogue Protocol,” and “Exit Strategy” – intending to read them while we were on vacation in March, which meant I would have to wait and not read them for weeks and weeks. I managed to almost do that.
With a week to go before our vacation started, I broke down and read “Artificial Condition” as slowly as I could, dragging it out to three days – I could’ve stretched a full-length novel to as much as two weeks by reading very slowly and putting it down between chapters, but I couldn’t put down Murderbot because a chapter in a novella is a snack compared to a chapter in a full-length novel. Fun to read, but it just doesn’t last.
I was dying for some more Murderbot after I finished “Artificial Condition,” and I’m quite chuffed to say I managed to hold off reading the next novella, “Rogue Protocol,” until I was on a plane heading south. Finished “Rogue Protocol” in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, and finished “Exit Strategy” somewhere in the Caribbean.
With no more Murderbot left to read, I did what any self-respecting reader who enjoyed the hell out of a series of books would do and started at the beginning again. And enjoyed it as much as I had the first time. Which is why I’m over the moon this week after finishing the first novel-length Murderbot story, “Network Effect,” which dropped into my Kindle on Tuesday morning. I didn’t see it there until my lunch hour and had to wait four agonizingly long hours to jump into it because my day job got in the way. I hate it when that happens.
There is science fiction and fantasy that I connect with immediately, some that I grow to like after a while, and then there is SF&F that I don’t connect with no matter how hard I try. I connected with The Murderbot Diaries right away, I think because I identify with Murderbot, which probably should be an alarming admission, considering the difficulties Murderbot has getting along with people (it calls itself “Murderbot” for reasons you can easily guess), but I can’t deny the affinity. There’s a lot about human society that Murderbot just doesn’t get, which is the way I feel about human society at least sixty percent of the time.
And yet, there is plenty about human society that Murderbot likes, even when it’s not sure it completely understands, and I think it’s the moments where Murderbot is trying to work out what it likes and why which I enjoy most. In “Network Effect,” for instance, Murderbot writes the story of its relationship with Mensah, one of the humans who befriended it, and gives the story to another sentient killer robot like itself in order to help it free itself. I’ll have to read that again because I know there are angles to that story I missed the first time around, even though I stopped and re-read parts of it.
And there are things about socializing that Murderbot seems to understand very well. It spends a lot of time trying to work out what kind of relationship it has with a sentient space ship, for instance, even while the humans in the story can easily see it’s a close, personal relationship. They enjoy watching soap operas together. They argue like an old married couple. They fight and almost die for one another. It’s really very touching.
A review of “All Systems Red” by Jason Sheehan at NPR