Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Murderbot Diaries

I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don't know, a little under 35,00 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure. — All Systems Red

The first thing you need to know about Murderbot is that it doesn't like humans. Even though its job is to protect them.

The second thing you need to know is that Murderbot would really rather be watching TV. Specifically the most unrealistic soap-opera science fiction available.

These books are the most fun I've had reading for a long time. The story plots are somewhat beside the point, just as in a big, splashy action thriller where what you want is action and thrills. And yet, the plots do matter because that's where we find out that Murderbot actually does care about more than watching TV. 

And, you know, we kind of wind up loving Murderbot, so we care too.

It begins with four novellas.

All Systems Red 

Artificial Condition 

Rogue Protocol 

Exit Strategy 

These four novellas  encompass one large story arc, so in essence they are like four long sections in a book. (So you need to read them in order.)

 The series is light, entertaining, fun, and exciting. All that with a sense of humor and a mystery in each book in order to keep everyone alive. Each novella is a thriller-adventure with Murderbot reluctantly acting as the Security Unit for a group of humans as cover for other things it is trying to accomplish.

I like that Murderbot uses its free will to spend all day watching TV, if possible. I also liked the reason that it was capable of the killing that makes it name itself "Murderbot." 

In a way, the series feels a bit like it could have been from the Firefly universe. Or maybe Futurama? Every time Murderbot said "kill all humans" - and it was said a fair number of times - Bender flashed before my eyes. 

I've seen a few complaints that the novellas are too short and episodic feeling. You mean just like the entertainment that Murderbot loves to watch so much? Maybe that's why I like them. Sometimes what you want is a good episodic adventure with a likable hero struggling against the odds. And that's what the novellas give us. 

Network Effect

If the novellas are like TV episodes, then the novel is the movie we've been waiting for. 

This book put me in the almost unprecedented position of wanting to read as fast as possible (the way I always do with the Murderbot books) and yet to also slow down so the story didn't unfold and end too soon. So I read every spare moment, but deliberately ... and that made the book last two days! Hahaha - mission accomplished. 

Martha Wells wove a complex action-adventure story that kept me on the edge of my seat while taking the time to further develop Murderbot's character. Not to mention developing those of past friends and new partners in action. Toward the end a new character is added in the most satisfying yet surprising way - one I hope we see more of in the future. 

The novellas are good but the novel is better. I know another novella is due out in April but I hope Wells gives us another Murderbot novel soon.

Read the novel after the novellas.


  1. Julie, do you think it’s necessary to to read the Novellas before the novel?

    1. Yes. They are developing Murderbot as they go ... and the novel builds on that.