I have to admit that I bought the first Murderbot novella because Amazon’s algorithms kept forcing it in my face every time I got on the site. It had a bunch of Hugo Awards attached to it. Plus, it sounded pretty cool, so I bought the audio book for when I was at the gym. (Yes, that was the time when we could all go to the gym.) It was funny, irreverent, and had me hooked. It also helped that the actor doing the narration was awesome, so I bought the rest for when I traveled to comic cons. (Miss those, too.) Soon, my husband couldn’t get enough. It was a no-brainer to pick up the novel when it came out.
So, who is Murderbot? It is a sentient, part-organic construct security unit (a.k.a. SecUnit) that is contracted out to humans when they need extra security for a wide variety of reasons. They can be leased out for protection during the exploration of a planet, trade agreements, and political negotiations – basically, anywhere human life might be at risk and the company or political entity needs insurance to cover any potential liability. The difference between Murderbot and all the other SecUnits is that it hacked its governor module and is free to do what it wants. (Humans don’t like that, by the way.)
This novel finds Murderbot on the way back to Preservation, the planet co-governed by his former client, Dr. Mensha, after a festival on another planet. Accompanying him are Dr. Mensha’s brother-in-law and one of her teenage daughters. Dr. Mensha does not accompany them for reasons that are initially misinterpreted by her family, but are hinted at during the journey. Their trip is interrupted when they are attacked and the crew taken hostage. Murderbot must now learn how to deal with a teenage human, fend off the bad guys, and deal with the traumatic loss of a friend. This is a universe where control of most of the known galaxy is through various corporations, and they are very willing to use extortion, kidnapping, and violence to get what they want. It’s just another day for Murderbot.
The book zeroes in on the total lack of empathy, trust, and compassion corporations have for people. Murderbot has more of these than most humans do. It is the scarecrow who has found its heart, but is too scared to reveal it for fear of it being broken. It’s the central theme of all of her books and something I think we can all relate to. It also has some great action sequences.
As you can probably tell, I’m a huge fan of this series, and I thought this book was funny, poignant, and well done. There are more than a few run-on sentences and missing parentheticals, but this is because Murderbot speaks in run-on sentences. I also believe it would be even more enjoyable as an audio book. Murderbot is snarky, loyal, and will do anything to protect its humans. It is a terrific character that I hope to see more of.
Though Network Effect is a standalone continuation of the original four novellas, I highly recommend reading those first or else you’ll miss half the fun.
By the way, I want my own SecUnit. Preferably with its governor module hacked.
Creative Team: Martha Wells (writer)
Publisher: Tor Publishing
Buy: Your Local Independent Bookstore