the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘Murderbot

Exit Strategy (Murderbot Diaries #4) by Martha Wells

published in 2018

where i got it: purchased new




Murderbot is good at a lot of things.  Murderbot is especially good at having an exit strategy. Knowing where the doors and hallways are, and knowing where those hallways lead. Being able to hack software so as to disappear.  Knowing how to get out of conversations (usually by walking away). Knowing how to get away from people.


Exit strategies are helpful when social situations, or any situation involving people, aren’t your strong suit. Is always having an exit strategy just a coping mechanism for Murderbot?   We all use coping mechanisms to avoid dealing with things that we don’t have the toolkit to deal with or simply don’t want to deal with.


Let’s get some  plot bits out of the way first – Murderbot finds out that Mensah is in trouble, and Murderbot has evidence that can prove that Mensah is innocent. But, how to get the evidence to Mensah’s people?  And what if GrayCris doesn’t care about if Mensah is innocent? What if she’s just the bait, and what they really want is one specific rogue Sec Unit? Finding Mensah and her people is no problem, but now comes the hard part:  Can Murderbot trust them? Do they even want to see Murderbot again? What about Mensah, what’s Murderbot going to say to her when they inevitably meet again? Mensah offered Murderbot a home, and Murderbot ran away from her. Where does their relationship even stand now?


Murderbot needs to decide who is worth trusting, and who is worth protecting, and exactly how much is worth risking to trust and/or protect. When you’re not considered a person, when you’re considered property,  what is trust worth to you? In the end, what does trust, what does “a relationship”, what does “having a friend”, get you, if you’re not a person who has rights or the ability to exist in a way of your own choosing?


When I first started reading Exit Strategy, I thought the plot was thin and weak. I felt like I wasn’t connecting with this book as much as I had with earlier entries, and that annoyed me. Call it user-error.  More on that later, I promise.


Murderbot likes to observe people, is curious about people things, and maybe sometimes appreciates people things. But Murderbot doesn’t want people things.  I relate to this, because I feel the same way about tattoos. I am fascinated by them, I love seeing and complimenting people’s art, I enjoy hearing people’s stories about why that their tattoos mean to them, I once went through a short obsession with Russian Prison tattoo art (yes, this is a thing. No, you can’t ask).  But I have zero interest in ever getting a tattoo. I’m fascinated by them and I appreciate them, but I don’t want it for myself.

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I’ve been dabbling in a lot of books this week. Making slow progress, but not quite going all in on anything.


I finished reading Exit Strategy by Martha Wells,  and I want to give this another read through before I write a review. I feel like I rushed through the first half of it.  Although knowing me, my entire review will be some version of “This is why we shouldn’t build humanoid robots. We’ll keep assuming that since they look sort of human that they want human things, and when it turns out that they don’t want human things, our feewings will get hurwt. But like, we couldn’t have respected their answer when they said ‘don’t want human things, thanks’?”


And I’ve been bouncing in and out and around these three titles. If I’m “all in” on anything, it’s definitely the supernatural thriller by Aliette de Bodard.  The end is super intense, I’ve probably got 70 or so pages to go!

Servant of the Underworld by Aliette De Bodard is a supernatural thriller/murder mystery that takes place in the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. The investigator of the maybe-murder is the Priest for the Dead, and the accused murderer is the priest’s brother. There’s all sorts of dirty politics and infidelity and secret children and judgy parents and oh, the Aztec gods are real. You can talk to them, and they’ll tell you what they require as sacrifice and/or worship. and then they might kill you. I like stories where the gods are real. intense stuff!  You like de Bodard’s Xuya stories right?  you’ll like this!


the weirdly titled The History of Soul 2065 is a mosaic novel by Barbara Krasnoff, available later this spring.  As soon as I saw that “Sabbath Wine” was in the table of contents, I knew I had to read it, cry for an hour, and then keep reading.  These interlinked stories follow two families across generations and continents.  I’m not far into the book yet, but I can already see how their family trees intertwine.  I like mosaic novels.  I may do a dramatic reading of “Sabbath Wine” while I’m seeing my family for Passover this coming weekend. If you hearing sobbing coming from Maryland, that’s my fault.


If any of these get DNFd it’s mostly likely going to be Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovksy. I LOVE the concept of this post apocalyptic novel – the end came, so everyone hid in the subway stations of Moscow, and somehow survived on pigs and mushrooms.  many of the subway tunnels are haunted, different political groups have taken over different stations, gun cartridges are money, people will do anything to survive.  The concept is compelling, the execution is . . . pretty boring actually. I don’t know if it is an artifact of the translation, or if this is the style of the writer, but I am skimming the text a lot because it is so repetitive.


What are you reading this week?

Artificial Condition, a Murderbot Diaries book, by Martha Wells

published May 8th 2018

where I got it: Purchased new





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








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.