**** Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells

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SciFi’s favorite antisocial A.I. is again on a mission. The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah’s SecUnit is.

And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.

Truly, these books get better as we go. Remember how, when I reviewed All Systems Red, I was wishing for more worldbuilding-related plot? Well, we’re slowly but surely getting all of this plot, stretched out through several books. While there is a disapointing lack of aliens in this sci-fi universe in which aliens archeological ruins are a plot point, the mystery surrounding GrayCris’ action deepens, and I hope it will turn out to be more than just corporate greed. (Aliens. I want it to turn out to be aliens.)

Murderbot is started to be more confortable in its own skin when passing as a human, and in this book gets challenged by having to once-more act as a SecUnit, and finding out that it did not miss that at all. You never truly understand how far you’ve come than when you have to go back to the beginning, and Murderbot is quickly starting to realise that it cares a lot about other people, about protecting them even when they are assholes, and even about other bots. In the first book Murderbot had its opinions changed about humans, in the second book, it was about hyper-intelligent science vessels and sexbots, and in this book it’s about simple bots, and I love all of that. Our protag started out with a low opinion of all of these, and is now discovering how to care and relate to others outside of itself. I’m making a bet now that Murderbot will have to interact and learn to care/change its low opinion of SecUnits in a sequel soon.

The plot is this installment felt a little more fast-paced than in the two previous books, mostly because we spent less time on establishing the setting and character’s motivations. It didn’t take long at all before people started getting shot at, and our protag could do what it does best. I enjoyed all of the action scenes, despite some that were a bit confusingly written. Mostly I had difficulty seeing the rooms and where everyone was placed in my mind’s eye, with the action taking place in a lot of corridors, corridors branching off to other corridors, and rooms with sci-fi sounding names like the « geopod ». I understand that it’s difficult to hit the right balance of explaining versus letting the reading guess, especially in a sci-fi book where the main character would already know all of that, but at some points I rather wished that I had a map, or illustrations.

All in all, a very good third novella in the series, that I once more read in about two days. Next!

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