The Murderbot Diaries came up in a few lists I recently read of recommended books. My curiosity finally piqued enough to put myself in queue to wait for it at the library.
And I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner.
It should be said that I’ve never been a huge fan of science fiction books. I love the genre in film and comics and games, but I’m not huge on it in prose format. It could perhaps be that I couldn’t get into them as a kid (I had at least one or two Star Wars and Doctor Who books, but I don’t think I ever finished the former and don’t know that I ever cracked open the latter) and so maybe I’ve just grown up with an unconscious, misguided, Those aren’t for me belief.
I’ve certainly read some that I couldn’t put down–I’ll take all the John Scalzi you’ve got, as just one example–it’s just that those are the exceptions to the rule.
But after the gateway drug that All Systems Red proved itself to be, I think Martha Wells is going to help change all that for me.
This first book of a series of novellas is told from the first person perspective of a “construct”, an organic/mechanical hybrid that (though increasingly, who) is sent as part of a planetary survey team’s standard equipment from the nameless company that manages such exploration.
We find early on that the self-labelled murderbot has hacked its own governor module, giving it more freedom to think and do what it wants to. It hides this fact from the human crew it works for by continuing to do and say what it’s supposed to. At least, at first.
We learn that the murderbot likes watching a particular soap opera when it has free time, and that it is self-conscious.
We learn that the murderbot has opinions about the members of the human crew it works for.
We learn that the murderbot is, unbeknownst to the crew, far more than the sum of its parts.
That last part is key when the crew finds out that the unexpected attack on its members came from a creature that had been intentionally removed from the company information package about the planet. Along with, it turns out, significant other parts of the package.
Things get more serious still when communication stops from another exploration team on the other side of the planet. The crews could have compared notes to start piecing together what’s going on, but not any more.
Someone somewhere wants to keep the murderbot’s crew ignorant of planetary dangers. The mission, and their very lives, may be in danger. But who would do that, and why?
All Systems Red is the first book I’ve read by Martha Wells, but as she’s roundly considered an excellent science fiction author and this is just one of her recent series, I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of her work.
Artificial Condition, the second novella in the Murderbot Diaries series, which I put on hold immediately when I finished All Systems Red, is already waiting for me at the library.
If you have an even passing interest in science fiction and/or in a new take on what AI may become in the future, grab this book ASAP.