Admittedly, I have read it twice already now, but this is the one in the series that my husband and I are currently reading out to each other, in a dramatic fashion, because we make our own fun.
I… love this series of books. So far there are five novellas, one novel, and one short story, and according to the publisher TOR, the author, Martha Wells, is contracted for three more Murderbot books of some length. To be clear, the novellas in order are, All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy, and Fugitive Telemetry, the novel is Network Effect, and the short story (released in ebook only) is Home.
There are several reasons I love this series. In no particular order, Martha Wells is a great writer and she spins a story well. Second, I adore the protagonist, a genderless human-robot construct who has the emotional competency of a six year old human, the cynicism and wit of an eighty-six year old version of Oscar Wilde, the computer processing power of your roommate’s bespoke water-cooled specialty system they won’t even let you breathe on, the sheer destructive power of the original 100 series of Terminator, and an overwhelming desire (despite everything it’s been through) to protect the humans in its care. That the construct in question is also dealing (badly) with massive Trauma, deep grief, and the attendant anxiety and depression just makes it more lovable.
The third reason I love this book, which is actually the first reason, is because it so strongly reminds me of the movie Jupiter Ascending by the Wachowskis, for which I have written quite a lot of fanfic. It turns things around, to go from one to the other – what if the solitary protector figure was the protagonist? And the protector has lived a totally dehumanizing experience as a slave-adjacent in a corporations-run-amok universe, and we see the protector’s journey of breaking free. But what would that be like, really? Coping with that much trauma? Being that overqualified for keeping others safe and totally unqualified for much else? Being that level of not-exactly-human? And then the protector, in the midst of this, rescues a human woman with high political power over a relatively insignificant planet somewhere else, and the human woman returns the favor and rescues the protector right back. (And throughout the books they go back and forth, mutually rescuing each other.) And if the protector doesn’t have a gender, then we don’t have to worry about romance, but how would that work, anyway?
And that is how we shift (in my head, at least) very seamlessly from the Wachowski’s universe into Wells’ universe.
But then, I fall into the construct’s head (in a fit of self-loathing it named itself Murderbot, and admittedly I don’t think I’ve ever done that, but it does use the watching of it’s favorite media serial, The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon, as a self-soothing measure… and I do rather the same thing with every Agatha Christie adaptation, ever) and find I just want to give it hugs and tell it how wonderful it is, I want to teach it language to talk about it’s feelings, and then knit it a sweater. And really, none of those things would be welcome by Murderbot.
Except maybe the sweater.