The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

This is an amazing series of very short novellas about a SecUnit (security AI) who has hacked the governor module which keeps the SecUnit from going rogue and killing all of the humans. 

Note: Although Murderbot has no gender, I found it really hard to talk about him without pronouns (notice all the times I used SecUnit in that last sentence) and I didn’t like using ‘it’ because that dehumanized Murderbot too much.  So for the sake of my sanity, I’ve chosen to use the male pronouns, because that is what I pictured while reading.  Someone else could easily assign no sex or a female one and that is ok. 

Meet Murderbot:

“It’s wrong to think of a construct as half bot, half human. It makes it sound like the halves are discrete, like the bot half should want to obey orders and do its job and the human half should want to protect itself and get the hell out of here. As opposed to the reality, which was that I was one whole confused entity, with no idea what I wanted to do. What I should do. What I needed to do.” 

Murderbot is depressed, has anxiety and just wants to be left alone to watch all of the episodes of Sanctuary Moon. Instead Murderbot is stuck protecting humans.  He hates when they look at him, especially when he is not wearing his armor.  But he feels compelled to protect them, even when they are doing stupid things that put them (and him) at risk.  Murderbot has a very dry sense of humor and makes a lot of comments about humans, humanity and life in general.  I really enjoyed spending time with Murderbot.  Besides being a great science fiction adventure, Murderbot’s personality and his interactions with the humans he encounters was fun and fascinating.  

I liked the future that the author has invented here.  Even though there are some pretty evil corporations running most things, it appears that most humans are accepted for who they are.  There is some uglier aspects to this future society, including indentured servitude.  But overall it seems like a pretty cool place to live and work.  

So some quick thoughts about each book.

All Systems Red (Book 1)

All Systems RedMurderbot is minding his own business protecting some scientists on a remote planet, when all hell breaks loose.  This is the book that really endeared me to Murderbot.  Even though something happened in the past that caused him to murder the humans he was protecting, he genuinely seemed to be a good SecUnit that only wanted to do his job the best he could.  Murderbot becomes a bit attached to this group of humans, especially Dr. Mensah, and decides that he needs to not only find out what really happened on this planet, but also about his past. 

“They were all so nice and it was just excruciating. I was never taking off the helmet again. I can’t do even the half-assed version of this stupid job if I have to talk to humans.” 

Artificial Condition (Book 2)

Artificial ConditionMurderbot has gone completely rogue and is on the run.  He ventures out into far space by convincing a Research Transport Vessel called ART that it would be okay for him to hitch a ride.  I almost liked ART as much as Murderbot.  They had some fun interactions.  ART convinces Murderbot that he needs to alter his appearance so that he no longer looks like a SecUnit.  This helps him look more like an augmented human and he is then able to become a security guard to a group of humans.  This group of humans was even more diverse as the first, but at least in the eyes of Murderbot, more troublesome.  They of course need rescuing as well. 

“I know, I said, if the humans were dead, who would make the media? It was so outrageous, it sounded like something a human would say.” 

Rogue Protocol (Book 3)

Rogue ProtocolMurderbot is now on the trail of finding out what really happened on the planet with the scientists.  He again gets himself hired as a security guard to another group of humans.  With their help he discovers exactly what GrayCris (evil) Corporation has been up to.  In this book Murderbot meets Miki, a human-formed robot that accompanies the group of humans.  It tells him that the humans are it’s friends, which Murderbot thinks is ridiculous, humans and robots can not be friends.  But as he watches Miki interact with them, he begins to have his doubts. 

“Or Miki was a bot who had never been abused or lied to or treated with anything but indulgent kindness. It really thought its humans were its friends, because that’s how they treated it. I signaled Miki I would be withdrawing for one minute. I needed to have an emotion in private.” 

Exit Strategy (Book 4)  Publication Date October 2,2018

Exit StrategyMurderbot is truly in his element here.   He finds where GrayCris is holding a kidnapped Dr. Mensah and goes to help rescue her.  I loved all of the action and the complexity of everything he had to juggle just to get her away safely.  He is able to save the day, but not for them so much as for himself.  He has shown a lot of growth through out all of these books, but he still is embarrassed to spend time with humans and would still rather hide in a room and watch his media, instead of interact with them.  

“I don’t want to be human.”

Dr. Mensah said, ‘That’s not an attitude a lot of humans are going to understand.  We tend to think that because a bot or a construct looks human, its ultimate goal would be to become human.”

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

This is a stupendous work of science fiction.  The first book has won many awards including an Alex and a Hugo.  At only 100-150 pages they are really quick reads.  I read the first three over a weekend.  Although this is the end of this story, I am really hoping to see more of Murderbot in the future, saving humans across the universe. 






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