Cover art for Martha Wells’ novel “Network Effect”
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I finished Network Effect: A Murderbot Novel yesterday morning. It’s the fifth entry in the Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells. It’s also the first novel-length book in the series, with one through four being novellas or novelettes (my reviews on the rest of the series can be found here).
It won the 2021 Nebula award and a bunch of other accolades and in this case, they were well deserved (In my experience, that’s not always the case). We continue to see Murderbot evolve becoming, in their/her own way, more “human” though I’m sure she would deny that.
Oh, even though technically Murderbot has no gender, I always hear her voice in my head as female, so I’m going to go with that. Probably has something to do with my knowing the author is also female.
Given the novel-length of the story, we’re able to go back and forth in Murderbot’s experiences. We start out seeing her as a fully autonomous SecUnit providing security for an archeological team, which definitely needs it. The story begins with a bang because we are then thrown into more back story on Murderbot and the supporting characters. This includes her close relationship (I hesitate to say “friendship,” although I think it is) with Dr. Mensah and interestingly enough with her teenage daughter Amena (relationships are confusing because this is some sort of “group marriage” where Mensah is Amena’s “second mother”).
Cover art for the novella Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells
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I’m continuing to thoroughly enjoy Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series having just finished Rogue Protocol, the third novella in the collection (and still incredibly overpriced, even for such quality). I’ve already reviewed All Systems Red and Artificial Condition.
Side Note: I’ve mentioned this before in one of the previous reviews, but even though the security unit/murderbot has no gender, even though partially organic, I can’t help but hear her voice as a “her.” Maybe it’s because I’m aware that the author is a woman, or maybe it’s because Wells projected a “female” personality into her voice during the writing, but that’s how I think of “her.” I know some people are going to object to this (for gender identity reasons), but for this and other reviews, the SecUnit is a “she” to me. That’s what I’m going to call her.
In this “episode,” our SecUnit who sometimes goes by the name of “Consultant Rin” when posing as an augmented human security consultant, continues to pursue clues as to her past and the lost portions of her memories. To that end, she stows away on another robotic spacecraft, convincing its AI that she belongs there, and travels to a station orbiting the planet Milu. There, she plans to travel to an abandoned orbiting terraforming station that is not what it appears to be.
© James Pyles
I’m continuing my slow review of the stories in the Zombie Pirate Publishing SciFi anthology World War Four (which also features my short story “Joey,” but right now, that’s beside the point). Today, I highlight Rich Rurshell’s tale “Subject: Galilee.”
Much of the symbolism echoes Christian themes, but Rurshell’s story takes place in the far future. A war is raging between two corporate factions, Liberty West which uses robotic warriors called “Romans,” and Zhang Industries’ human combatants. In between them and a village of peaceful people as well as defected soldiers, is the mysterious armored and cloaked being known as Galilee. He came out of no where, possesses enormous, almost god-like abilities, reprogramming the Roman machines to serve him, his armor all but invulnerable, and seems to be the savior that the world needs, that is until both corporations decide to make him a target.
With all of the angst going on in the news and social media as well as here in the blogosphere, I thought we should start off the day with a smile. So here you go.
Found on Facebook – image credit unknown
So far, I’ve written four stories in my “robots” series. This series was inspired by the premise behind Anthony Marchetta’s anthology God, Robot, the idea that Isaac Asimov-type Positronic robots would have their prime directives changed from the The Three Laws of Robotics to what is referred to in the New Testament as the Two Greatest Commandments, located specifically in Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34, being based on Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18.
I took a somewhat different approach than did Marchetta and his contributors which I believe is more “realistic,” if one can be said to be realistic when writing stories about intelligent and self-aware humanoid robots.
Since limitations in the WordPress theme I’m using don’t allow me to display a list of my blog posts, I’m writing this missive so I can include an easy to use list of the entries in my series.
I’ve noticed that some folks come here and read the latest story, but not necessarily all of the earlier ones. Since one story builds on another, the entire arc will make more sense if you read each of my small tales in order.
Here they are:
- The Robot Who Loved God
- The Maker Dilemma
- The Good Robot
- Uncooperative Neighbors
I’ll add to the list as I write more in this series. Enjoy.
Dr. Alfred Lanning, played by James Cromwell in the film “I, Robot” (2004)
“One day they’ll have secrets… one day they’ll have dreams.”
Dr. Alfred Lanning
played by James Cromwell in the film
I Robot (2004)
Six Weeks Ago
“You both have been called heroes because of the people you helped here at NRC in the aftermath of last March’s quake. How do you feel about that?”
Grace had been interviewed by the press on several occasions since her activation, but this was the first time George attended a press conference with her.
It was inevitable that, once the world realized there were two functional Positronic robot prototypes in existence, the National Robotics Corporation would have to release some sort of statement about them. After Professor Noah Abramson, NRC’s Vice President of Research and Development and Director of the Positronics Project, had convinced company CEO Richard Underwood that George would be as ‘well-behaved’ as Grace was typically when interviewed, he agreed to have both robots answer questions for the news media.
“I believe I can speak for Grace when I say that we are gratified to be able to serve human beings in any capacity required of us.” George and Grace were constantly communicating in “robotspeak” through their radio link and had agreed to take turns answering questions unless one of them was specifically addressed.
“What are your plans going forward?” asked the reporter from The Washington Post.
I told my seven-year-old grandson that I’ve been writing robot stories and he asked me to write one for him. I discovered that writing children’s science fiction is much harder than the adult variety, and had to settle for writing a robot story that included children.
This is the first story in my series that puts people in actual danger, invoking the First Law in both George and Grace. While you’d think a First Law response would be relatively straightforward, I’ve introduced a few wrinkles I hope you’ll find interesting.
Before reviewing and publishing the third submission in this series, I went over the first two stories again and corrected more typos and awkward sentences. I also made a few short additions as they occurred to me.
As always, I’m sure I missed mistakes in the current tale. After reading it, let me know what you think and what “English 101” errors you found.
“I have just plugged the last tape of instructions into Robot X, Miss Bainbridge. The time has come to turn on its power switch,” declared Dr. Aiden.
“Are you sure it’s safe, Doctor?” cried Aiden’s lovely young assistant.
“Of course, Miss Bainbridge,” Dr. Aiden replied confidently. “Robot X will be completely under my control. It will be the forerunner of a whole race of robots, commanded only by me. With my army of mechanical men, I will rule the world.”
One of my regular readers on my Morning Meditations blog took the time to read The Robot Who Loved God and render a detailed analysis. He emailed me a 35-page Word doc not only correcting my typos (I’m amazed I missed so many after making multiple passes through the story – all typos have been corrected here but not in my original story at A Million Chimpanzees), but offering numerous editorial comments.
I’m including those comments here as well as my responses. I hope you’ll find them as illuminating as I did.
Quotes from the referenced story will be indicated as such in bold text and the content itself in italics. Editorial notes will be in red-colored text. My responses will be in regular text.
This short story originally appeared on the A Million Chimpanzees blog, the first BlogSpot I created. I’ve since launched Powered by Robots as an exclusive venue for my short story writing. To find out more, please visit my page. Enjoy.
The initial event that resulted in my most ambitious fiction writing project to date happened a few Sundays ago over coffee with my friend Tom. He mentioned a book he wanted to read, an anthology edited by Anthony Marchetta called God, Robot. This is a collection of stories based on the premise of Isaac Asimov-like Positronic robots that have been programmed with two Bible verses rather than Asimov’s famous Three Laws. These verses are recorded in the New Testament in Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34 and are based on Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18.
I’m a long-time fan of Asimov’s robots stories and have always been fascinated by the interplay between the Three Laws and how their potentials shifted due to certain situations, rather than remaining hard absolutes. This allowed Positronic robots to be unpredictable and thus interesting, challenging the human beings who sometimes found themselves not in control of their creations.
I started to imagine what it would be like to write such a story. I went online, found Marchetta’s blog, and contacted him, asking permission to write such a story on my “Million Chimpanzees” blogspot. To my delight, not only did he consent, but he said he was flattered at the request.
What follows is the result of my labors. I’ve probably spent more time writing and editing this short story (about twenty pages long when copied into Word) than any of my previous efforts. I’m sure it still needs much improvement, but I’ll leave it up to whoever reads it to let me know what I could do better.
At the end of the story, I’ll relate more about my influences and a few other insights.