One of my favourite books from last year was the charming award-winning novella All Systems Red by Martha Wells. In that first novella, a team of scientists is conducting a research on a distant, uninhabited planet as part of a mission approved by a murky corporation simply called The Company. The team is supplied by The Company with a security android, known as a SecUnit. Unbeknownst to the humans, this particular SecUnit has hacked its own governor module and is a self-aware, self-named Murderbot who is super disdainful of humanity and a keen consumer of TV Shows that it binges when it’s not trying to save the lives of these irritating humans.
Murderbot is the narrator of the novella and its voice is tremendously engaging, dripping with sarcasm as it obverses the humans it works for, and with a growing sense of identity that becomes more and more entangled with those very humans. In the end of that first novella, Murderbot is given a choice for the first time in its life and it takes it: it goes away on its own to find out what happened in its past.
You see, Murderbot once killed the humans it worked for in a massacre that The Company has kept hidden. Its memory of the event is vague and its yearning to find out what exactly happened there is an all-consuming affair. It HAS to find out.
Artificial Condition follows Murderbot in this new quest as it travels in space to the place where it happened — to find out why no one else survived the place where it happened. On its way, it will team up with ART, the mind behind a research transport vessel and once again get involved with another team of fickle, troublesome humans. The problem with getting involved with humans though is that their tendency to get in trouble coupled with Murderbot’s tendency to want to save their asses is always a difficulty. And this time, to complicate things even further, Murderbot NEEDS to pass as human — because The Company might be trying to find it. Cue hilarious moments when two robots try to learn ways for Murderbot to behave like a person would—snags and all. It learning when and how to sigh in exasperation at human behaviour is only less than funny than it realising that it was getting good at it because there were so many opportunities to do it.
There is also Murderbot’s relationship with other types of bots, which leads to Murderbot’s realising it has its own prejudices — and that there are other types of heroism out there. Between the truth that it finds out there and the truth that it realises in its own mind, Murderbot’s narrative offers another delectable adventure full of fun, laughter and heart.
The third novella in the series — Rogue Protocol — comes out in August this year and I for one, am ready and willing to keep on reading The Continued Adventures of Murderbot.
In Booksmugglerish – 8 out of 10.