the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Martha Wells’ Category

Rogue Protocol (Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells

published 2018

where I got it: purchased new

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Murderbot needs to stop hanging out with humans.  You hang out with humans too much, and they start to rub off on you, and you start to think that maybe not all humans are awful, that maybe it is possible for a bot to be treated kindly.  You start getting spoiled, you start getting used to sleeping on soft beds and having access to niceties.

 

You hang out with humans long enough, and even their gross feelings and emotions start to rub off on you. Feelings like  anger. Loyalty. Envy.

 

Plot-wise, Rogue Protocol doesn’t offer much we haven’t seen before.  Murderbot is going somewhere to get more information about GrayCris, and will have to pass as human (or at least pass as anything other than a SecUnit) to be successful, all while keeping dumb humans from getting killed by their own stupidity. There is interaction with another bot, whereby Murderbot learns that not all bots have the same experience with humans, and not all humans are awful.  I didn’t feel the connection with the characters as much in this book as I did in previous installments, making Rogue Protocol feel like it suffered from “middle book syndrome”.

 

When I say that so far this is my least favorite Murderbot book, what I’m saying is that Rogue Protocol is better than 75% of the books I’ve read this year. And the way this book ends? I know I am in for some spectacular Murderbot-ness in the next installment!

 

I appreciated that Murderbot has no idea how to feel about Miki, the other bot.  Miki is privileged, and maybe a little spoiled by her humans. Should Murderbot feel envy? Miki also isn’t very smart, her programming isn’t very complicated. Should Murderbot feel pity? She’s too dumb to really understand what’s happening (although she has got the 3 laws of robotics down pat), so maybe ignorance is bliss.  Her programming keeps her rather childlike, almost the way you and I keep our pet cats and dogs in a state of permanent pre-adolescence so they can stay tame, cute, and domesticated. Hmmm… maybe that’s the trick to humans treating their bots with kindness – in your mind, the bot is a pet cat. Some cats are very smart, but I’ve known some pretty dumb indoor cats who would have died without a human to care for them and protect them.  There are plenty of dogs out there with jobs, but also plenty of really cute and dumb dogs.  it’s surprisingly easy to keep a pet cat dumb, or pet dog dumb.

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Artificial Condition, a Murderbot Diaries book, by Martha Wells

published May 8th 2018

where I got it: Purchased new

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If you’re not on the Murderbot bandwagon, start here. You’re welcome.

 

Also, I fucking love novellas. Running 80 – 200 pages, I can read the whole thing in a day or two, magically feeling like the world’s fastest reader. Recently, I’ve been needing to read a book twice before writing the review. So anyway.

 

I finished a reread of Martha Wells’ Artificial Condition same day my husband brought the video game Detroit: Become Human home.  Both stories deal with ‘bots who are designed to look human, sound human, move like a human, and sorta kinda act like a human.  Both stories deal with ‘bots who must obey human commands. Even when the commands are stupid. Going against your programming (responding to something in a human way) requires you to hack your own software, break yourself, doom yourself to being reprogrammed, or all of the above.

 

My experience with Detroit: Become Human consists of watching my husband play it for an hour or two, it’s a super high tech choose your own adventure story – to obey your asshole human owner but endanger the little girl, turn to page 8. To punch your asshole human owner and save the little girl, turn to page 12.  Every choice you make as you are playing the ‘bot immediately and directly affects the story, and you can replay scenes over and over again to see how your different choices will affect your character’s future. It’s way cool!

 

In Artificial Condition, Murderbot  is afraid of just about everything. Afraid of being caught and having a human tell it all the awful things it did. Afraid of being near humans and hurting them. Afraid of someone else figuring out it’s afraid.  All Murderbot wants is to be left alone, where it can’t hurt anyone, and where no one can hurt it. Murderbot has vague, half memories of murdering a bunch of idiot humans. But only half memories. Did everything happen in the order it remembers? Did it happen at all? Is Murderbot maybe not the vicious killing machine it thinks it is?  Murderbot needs to know what really happened.

 

Murderbot teams up with ART (ok, so maybe “teaming up” isn’t exactly how that goes? If I was more specific it would wreck everything) to get back to where it all began. I did get a chuckle out of Murderbot’s and ART’s conversations – these are both fancy pants AIs, so they aren’t exactly speaking out loud, it’s a silent room full of conversation. We’re actually nearly there in real life.

But Murderbot needs a way onto the industrial station where it became a killing machine, and the easiest quickest way to do that is to get an employment contract.  To do that, Murderbot will need to talk to. . . people. And act like a . . . real person.

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All Systems Red, by Martha Wells

published May 2017

where I got it: purchased new

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Yes, yes, I know I’m late to the Murderbot party. A while back my twitter feed exploded with things like “I love Murderbot”, and “I want more Murderbot!”, and just shook my head in confusion. I’m actually doubly late to the party, because I’ve now read this novella twice in the last month and am only writing about it now. My lame excuse is that All Systems Red was the August book for my local book club and I wanted to wait until after our book club met and discussed the story to write my review. Also? I’ve been too busy watching Master of None, Arrested Development, and GLOW to give a shit about what anyone else wants.

Much of the fun of our book club meetings is seeing who enjoyed the chosen book, who didn’t, and what people liked and didn’t like. We all have different tastes, and it’s rare that everyone comes to the meeting saying “I loved this book!”. All Systems Red is that rare book. Everyone loved it, we couldn’t stop talking about, and everyone was thrilled to learn that Martha Wells has more Murderbot novellas planned. The bookstore where our book club meets is located next to a police station, and I fear to think what those cops thought when they heard cheers and giggles coming from next door as we all cheered “Murderbot Murderbot Murderbot!”

So, what the hell is this Murderbot craze all about?

Murderbot is a Security Unit bot. You want to explore or scout an unexplored planet? Your contract with the company requires one SecUnit per ten humans, and all sorts of other required equipment of dubious quality. Until said equipment craps out, leaving you to die on a deserted planet, it will record everything you do and say with plans to sell the data later. HubSystem does seem to have a “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that” type of personality.

The members of the PreservationAux exploration team have no idea their SecUnit has hacked it’s own governor module, and that this SecUnit helps them and saves their lives because it feels like it, not because it has to. These humans are on a deserted planet with a SecUnit who refers to itself as Murderbot. A SecUnit who has deleted as much data as possible to make room for more downloaded soap operas and other serial entertainments. Murderbot is socially awkward, anti-social, and couldn’t care less about the goals of squishy humans. Murderbot simply wants to be left alone so it can watch downloaded TV shows (huh. wanting to sit around and stream TV shows all day? that sounds, um, familiar)

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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