Review: NETWORK EFFECT by Martha Wells

Publisher: Tor.com
Release Date: May 5th, 2020
Page Count: 350
Series: THE MURDERBOT DIARIES, Book 5
Rating: 4/5 Stars – Really Liked It!

Note: I was given an ARC of the book by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Warning: Possible light spoilers ahead for earlier books in THE MURDERBOT DIARIES. Haven’t read them yet?  Here are the reviews for ALL SYSTEMS RED, ARTIFICIAL CONDITION, ROGUE PROTOCOL, and EXIT STRATEGY.

47902784Murderbot is enjoying a perfectly routine deployment guarding its humans as they go about another routine science expedition, when suddenly everything goes very very wrong.  Their ship is attacked, Murderbot and its humans are kidnapped, and their attackers are keeping their motivations close to the vest. And making life more complicated, a friend from the past is somehow tied up in this very unpleasant mess.  But one things for sure: nobody messes with Murderbot’s humans and walks away.

I have a very simple question for you: Do you like Murderbot adventures?  If yes, congratulations!  You have a fantastic Murderbot story in your future, full of sarcasm, firefights, and a desperate desire by Murderbot for humans to stop trying to make it talk about its feelings. If no…go find another book that isn’t Murderbot?

If the answer is c) I haven’t read a Murderbot adventure but please tell me more, let’s get to it!  NETWORK EFFECT is the first full-length novel in THE MURDERBOT DIARIES series.  Previously, there have been four novellas, which together tell a full arc of character growth for Murderbot.  Murderbot, you see, is a security construct, part organic components, part robotic parts, 100% sarcastic AI. It hacked its way to freedom years ago, and after a series of events, is now protecting a group of humans that crossed its path while it was figuring out what it wanted in life.  Actually, Murderbot still doesn’t really know what it wants in life, but these humans aren’t so bad, so might as stick with them.

The true joy of Murderbot is the utterly sarcastic voice in which this adventure is told. I admit, once in a while, the endless deadpan quips can wear a little thin, but the moment I opened the book and was greeted with Murderbot wishing that once, JUST ONCE, the humans would listen to it and stop doing stupid things, and at least it has the freedom now to tell them they are being stupid – I knew I was back in my happy place of grumpy introverted security bot.  I also love how the author writes the multitasking mind of an AI.  Most of the story is told in a straight forward manner, but there are sections when a lot is going on where the paragraphs seamlessly switch between the several things Murderbot’s AI brain is doing at once.  One paragraph is about Murderbot writing a bundle of attack code, the next paragraph is a drone’s view of a conversation happening elsewhere on the ship, the next paragraph is another part of Murderbot’s brain analyzing recent data that’s come to light.  It’s managed in a way that conveys how much Murderbot is juggling, without losing the reader.

Murderbot might be an AI, but that doesn’t stop it from being the emotional core of the story.  They might be getting more comfortable with having the ability to self-determine their own future, but that doesn’t mean Murderbot has figured out what it truly WANTS in life.  Or what to do with these pesky feelings that keep cropping up. Admitting closeness and attachment to either people or other bots is just something Murderbot isn’t remotely comfortable with doing, but it’s something they gradually come to terms with over the course of their adventure.

And if you’re the kind of person that’s here for the space adventure, don’t worry, that’s here in spades.  Space battles, lost colonies, strange technology and more are here for your reading pleasure.  One of the big hooks here is the mystery over who kidnapped everyone and why, and it’s a mystery that takes several twists and turns.  It’s a satisfying tale that will keep you hooked until the end.  If a grouchy introverted AI saving the day in the furthest reaches of space, away from all help and backup, sounds like your cup of tea, strap in for NETWORK EFFECT!

 

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