- The Good: Sentient security android killing machine who doesn’t like to work
- The Bad: Slow plot, lack of character development
- The Literary: AI to explore themes of identity and prejudice
In this first novel-length installment of The Murderbot Diaries, the security cyborg returns with some old friends, including its favorite human Dr. Mensah, on Preservation Station. After their previous adventures together, the companions treat Murderbot more as a person than a possession, but not everyone is convinced.
In the novellas that came before, the Murderbot charmed her way into the hearts of many scifi fans, gathering multiple Nebula, Hugo and other awards over the last few years. The stories all excel in their great action scenes, which makes sense for tales about a sentient robot programmed for efficient murder and destruction. A trend that continues in this book, which opens with a battle against space pirates during a survey expedition, and it’s always fun to watch Murderbot expertly kill multiple enemies with precision.
But the heart of the Murderbot series is the AI relationships, despite the robot’s hate of the F-word (feelings). In this story, Murderbot’s old friend ART (Asshole Research Transport) kidnaps Murderbot and one of its humans. Murderbot never had a great relationship with ART, but now that ART seems to have betrayed Murderbot, their relationship gets even more complicated. Throw in some sentient malware, and you get some good themes about identity and self-determination.
While I love the idea of exploring sentience and prejudice through cyborgs and AI, I suppose I’m getting tired of the same old Murderbot jokes. It doesn’t like humans, complains about their stupidity, and acts a lot like a petulant teenager. Despite being programmed as a killing machine, all it wants to do it watch TV, specifically human soap operas. All territory well explored in the previous tales. In addition, the plot lags and is confusing in some parts. Since this is a character driven story, much of the plot is unnecessary and works better in the slim novella format, although I’m not sure the character is enough to bring me back for a sixth installment.