The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is a series of novellas centered around an artificial construct with organic, human components. This means the main character is a robot with human parts, which is often called a cyborg, but the semantics are essentially irrelevant because Martha Wells created her own universe and we are lucky to play around in it beside her artificial being who calls itself Murderbot. As with all book recommendations, there will be no spoilers.
The series currently has four installments. All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy. The newest book is titled Network Effect and is set to release in May this year. I say book because this upcoming novel is in fact a full-length, standalone novel whereas the previous books are much shorter and read as continuations of the original story. I won’t be surprised if we see several if not all four of these first books published in a one-volume collection with four parts. They are all quick reads and each could be read easily in one day/afternoon. This is both fantastic and unfortunate. Fantastic because they are easy and fun to read (and you can easily read them all before the new book arrives), but unfortunate because you want more Murderbot (which luckily there are four out already and the fifth on the way).
There are several things I really like about this series. One is the main character who calls themself Murderbot. They are an anti-social being who just wants to watch tv shows all day and not interact with humans. The issue is, they are not considered human and are owned by a company who uses them as a security robot. I really enjoy stories that have introverted characters who slowly learn how to become human, which can be argued as what happens in this story. Argued is the key word here.
The second thing I really like is about the character of Murderbot but came to me via author V.E. Schwab’s twitter account.
Of course, Murderbot is genderless because it is fabricated but has human parts (and none of those parts are related to sex). I thought it was fascinating that this was a prime example of how readers create part of the story when reading books. I had projected my own gender on this main character and assumed they were male. I only realized this once it was pointed out. This just goes to show that gender and sex really don’t need to be part of a fictional character and readers can bring their own views into the fictional worlds they enjoy. As a writer myself, I’m glad I now have a prime example to use when/if I ever have to argue gender or sexuality of characters.
If you have read the Murderbot series, did you apply your own gender to Murderbot? I’m curious. If you are female, did you apply a male gender to Murderbot because they exhibit traditionally male stereotypes (protective, destructive, violent, stubborn)?
A few things that made the universe of Murderbot a little frightening for me was the way corporations are represented and how data is constantly collected (legally and illegally) and data-mined for profit. I think such data-mining is currently happening with social media and other programs we use today, but we are only at the very early stages of what is seen in Murderbot. Ever have a conversation about something and then see an add on your phone a few minutes later? Yeah. That’s because companies use any techniques they can to try and get you to buy something. Wells may very well be predicting an unsettling part of our future with this aspect.
To stay true to my “no spoilers” comment at the start. I’ll end the post here. If you like science fiction and space travel and robots, you’ll likely enjoy Murderbot. If you consider yourself introverted, you’ll also likely enjoy Murderbot. If you don’t think you would like Murderbot based on this post, give it a shot anyway. The first book is the perfect size to try it out.