Review: The Murderbot Diaries 1 -5, by Martha Wells

As I mentioned in my post about my future plans, I’m going to have a break from blog tours to make my way through my personal TBR pile. I thought I’d start with a sci fi series of four novellas and a novel by Martha Wells, the Murderbot Diaries.

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid—a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighbouring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

  • Hardcover, 
  • 176 pages
  • Published January 22nd 2019
  • Tordotcom (first published May 2nd 2017)
  • ISBN1250214718 (ISBN13: 9781250214713)

My Review: This novella introduces us to characters that re-occur throughout the series, but the most important is Murderbot, or SecUnit as it prefers to be publicly known. Murderbot has hacked his control unit so he can watch ‘media’ – soap operas – while pretending to be useful to humans. On a planetary expedition, SecUnit, who doesn’t like humans at all, has to protect a rather naïve group of researchers from a non-corporate political entity, Preservation System. They discover a massive conspiracy that puts the researchers in danger and might bring down a couple of corporations, including the company SecUnit belongs to.

The writing is really good and I read it in two hours. I loved Murderbot’s cynical nature and his confusion about humans, I actually empathised and identified with his fear of talking to humans and looking at them.

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 (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue.

What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…

My Review: Murderbot has gone out on its own to find more information about the mass murder it believes it is responsible for. In the process it meets a pilot bot that has a real name but that Murderbot refers to as ART. ART is a research and teaching vessel, who earns its university extra money by working as a transport for corporations. They bond over media. ART helps Murderbot change himself to look less like a SecUnit. On the mining facility, Murderbot finds information about itself and has to decide what it wants.

Again, brilliant writing, a grumpily misanthropic lead character and a tight plot. The author gets an awful lot into a novella. Everything that happens advances the plot and provides more information about the world building and the characters.

SciFi’s favorite antisocial A.I. is again on a mission. 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.

My Review: Murderbot is back, on a trip to a failed terraforming station to get more evidence for Dr Mensah’s case against GrayCris. What it discovers puts a lot of people in danger, while Murderbot develops a relationship with the group of researchers who have hired it to help them get their data back.

Again, I loved this story. I don’t really have much else to say that I haven’t said before.

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 home to help Dr. Mensah—its former owner (protector? friend?)—submit evidence that could 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?

My Review: SecUnit is back with his humans! Or it’s trying to get back to them with evidence to help Dr Mensah in her case against GrayCris. Unfortunately, GrayCris think they were working together and sends a murder team out to kill SecUnit. SecUnit is rather upset by this, and then further upset when Dr Mensah gets kidnapped. Queue mayhem!

I loved it. Can’t say anything else. I loved the way Murderbot’s feelings develop about his humans and the way the author is moving the story forward.

I also have this as a audiobook, because I couldn’t put the book down and needed to go out. The narration is very good.

Murderbot returns in its highly-anticipated, first, full-length standalone novel.

You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.

I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.

My Review: The first full length Murderbot novel did not disappoint. The relationships developed and the adventure was tightly written with several characters from the novellas converging in a tale of corporate intrigue and alien contamination. I enjoyed the development of Murderbot and ART’s relationship, Murderbot’s relationship with it’s humans and the world building.

I also have the audiobook and have to say the narrator does a fabulous job.

I know, I know, the reviews are a bit repetitive. I just loved the books and the audiobook, and I really identified with Murderbot’s anxiety, not wanting to look at people and needing to escape a lot. I know, I’m weird. I can’t wait for book six next year. I highly recommend that you go and read these books if you like a sci-fi series about misanthropic A.I.s.

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