The Murderbot Diaries is a scifi novel by Martha Wells. It follows the fictional diaries of… a murderbot. Let’s have a look.
Imagine a future where humanity has conquered the stars. They have off-planet mines, extraterrestrial archeological digs, and all kinds of other goings-on on exoplanets. Many groups of explorers and miners are accompanied by security androids. Murderbot is one such android, except it has hacked its governor module.
Murderbot is free to do what it wants, and what it wants to do is watch television shows and not be bothered by humans, even if it feels the need to protect them as well. That’s right, the security robot is a television-addict who doesn’t really care. Well… it says it doesn’t.
The novels in the series follow the adventures of the ‘murderbot’ as the main character calls itself. It tells the tale from its point of view.
Concise and to the point
I’ve read the first two parts of the series. They aren’t long, probably not even novel-length. Goodreads lists the book as 144 pages long. That’s not very long compared to tomes like Perdido Street Station (623 pages). Of course, it doesn’t really matter. I liked these 144 pages a lot more than I did Perdido Street Station’s 623. That’s not to say either book is objectively better, just that length does not matter.
I found these brief stories refreshing. I don’t have a lot of time to read, but I could still finish the second instalment (Artifical Condition) in a little over a week. The story quickly picks up speed and keeps heading inexorably to the climax.
The main character
First-person stories stand or fall by their main character. Novels like Interview with the Vampire and the Lies of Locke Lamora work because the main characters are interesting. I disliked the second and third parts of the Soldier Son Trilogy precisely because I didn’t like the main character.
In case of the murderbot diaries, the character is interesting because the main character is a introverted killing machine: a murderbot who’s shy and likes to sit in a corner quietly watching television shows.
The stories manage to combine a search for oneself and the vulnerability that entails with the bad-ass-ness of being a murdering android. It’s quite the achievement that Martha Wells managed to pull it off.
The Murderbot Diaries are short, interesting stories about a killer android. I had a blast reading them.
If you’re looking for a hard science fiction novel that builds a complex world and explores the future of science, then you won’t find it here.
If you’re looking for an entertaining yarn about a shy killing machine, go read these novels.