Review: ROGUE PROTOCOL by Martha Wells

Publisher: Tor.com
Page Count: 158
Release Date: August 7th, 2018
Series: THE MURDERBOT DIARIES, Book 3
Rating: 3.5/5 – Liked it!

41kbdykuwllIt took about two pages to reassure myself that Murderbot was here once again to be annoyed by humans and their very stupid ways.  The strength of these books comes from the voice Martha Wells has given to Murderbot as it navigates the strange space of being a robotic construct with very human instincts.  This voice adds flavor to an otherwise basic plot that was still highly entertaining to read.

Some spoilers for previous books ahead!

ROGUE PROTOCOL picks up a few days after the events of ARTIFICIAL CONDITION.  Murderbot is trying to put some distance between it and its latest escapades, which left a few (justifiably) dead bodies scattered about a space station. While choosing its next destination, Murderbot picks up an update about the last client it had before it went rogue, Dr. Mensah.  Although Murderbot rejected Dr. Mensah’s attempts to “free”` Murderbot by putting it under her guardianship, Murderbot still feels protective of the woman who didn’t run screaming when she learned of its true nature. Learning that Dr. Mensah is still in a legal battle with GreyCris, the company that tried to kill her and her team, Murderbot sets out to an abandoned GreyCris terraforming platform in the hopes of collecting damning information.  To do so, it has to stowaway on an expedition of humans hoping to recover the platform, and befriend Miki, a robot who adores its human owners and sees them as its friends.

If there’s one thing that ROGUE PROTOCOL made clear to me, it’s that THE MURDERBOT DIARIES quartet is truly a study of Murderbot’s evolution as a character, as it wrestles with the question of what it wants in the world, and what it wants in relation to humans.  Murderbot takes every opportunity it can to run from humans, and yet is always compelled to protect them.  More tellingly, Murderbot finds itself a tad jealous of Miki’s relationship with its human owners, despite protesting at every turn that it finds that relationship sickening.  Methinks the bot doth protest too much! Between this book and ARTIFICIAL CONDITION, Murderbot is slowly coming to terms with the fact that perhaps companionship isn’t such a bad thing after all.

As for the plot itself, it’s quick and serviceable. Murderbot tries to sneakily tag along with the recovery crew and its security team, but when it becomes clear that GreyCris has left behind measures to make sure that the true intentions of the station aren’t discovered, Murderbot can’t help but leap into the fray to defend the humans from harm. As always, most of the fun comes from Murderbot’s running commentary on the situation, and on how poorly the humans are handling themselves.  The way that Murderbot interacts with various bots and electronic protocols is a delight as well.  I did dearly miss ART from the last book, who challenged Murderbot’s assumptions at every corner, but Miki’s unconditional love for its human “friends” was an important new perspective for the cynical Murderbot to encounter.

If you’ve enjoyed Murderbot before, you will definitely enjoy it again. If you’re at all intrigued by this premise but haven’t checked out the series, please go pick up ALL SYSTEMS RED!  THE MURDERBOT DIARIES books are short but still pack a punch in terms of both action and humor.  I’ve already put book 4, EXIT STRATEGY, on hold at the library and can’t wait to conclude the series!

 

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