***** Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries #5) by Martha Wells

Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries, #5)

Murderbot returns in its highly-anticipated, first, full-length standalone novel.

You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.

I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.

Finally! At last! A full novel of Murderbot!

But you know what’s even better than Murderbot? ART! (That’s not a spoiler, we can see ART on the cover of the book.)

I have so many feelings about this book. I’ve read it cover to (digital) cover in less than 12 hours, and I enjoyed every last bit of it. In this book, Murderbot has gone to provide security for a survey team from PreservationAux, and is slowly getting used to doing its job with people it likes, who know what it is, and accepts it as such. (Plus a few new faces who don’t listen to its security opinions and get it shot on the job, but that’s business as usual.)

Except then on the way home, half of its team along with itself gets kidnapped, by strange Hostiles who are using ART as their ship, except our favourite science research AI doesn’t actually seem to be in residence inside it’s own hull and circuits. You can imagine that Murderbot doesn’t like that at all. In the « murdering the hostiles while having a full on emotional breakdown » way. And that’s just the start of the trouble.

This novel is fantastic. Murderbot is fully itself in this, in that it is finally starting to understand who and what it wants to be, and is faced with challenges on a scale it has never seen before, but like heck will it let any random hostiles hurt it’s people and its friends. I’ve said it before, I thoroughly enjoy protective mama-bears characters who will deny caring if asked, and that’s exactly who Murderbot is. Plus, ART is my favourite character, and it’s dynamic with Murderbot is just wonderful.

This book contains two arcs, of sorts. In the first one, Murderbot and co are reacting to what’s happening to them and struggle to survive. Then there’s a bit of an interlude in which we take care of some (hilarious) internal drama, followed by a highly satisfying second arc in which this time, our characters get to take the fight to the enemy. They are done reacting, and now are influencing events. This, I think, is what I think I was missing in the novellas. Due to their shorter lenght, we really only had time for one or two big obstacles in the story, and we felt like the characters were « reacting » a lot more than they were « acting ». This novel gives us several sequences of action as well as slower parts in which the characters can catch their breath and plan.

(spoiler below)

I don’t usually post spoilers, but I just NEED to talk about my favourite part of the book.

There is a long sequence in the middle of the book in which ART and Murderbot are having a very vicious spat, and all of the humans on board are very uncomfortable to see this much emotions being displayed from the part of both the asshole ship they’re all dependant on and their usually aloof SecUnit, and even though this part of the book is designed to be dramatic and angsty (and it is!), it is also Peak Comedy. It involves Art texting Muderbot like 400 times. It involves sulking in a bathroom. It involves poor humans being used as go-betweens. The words « relationship » are thrown around. It turns out that ART is just as much of a protective asshole as Murderbot is, and having them both butt heads is probably the best part of the novel. I just love them both so much.

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