Cover art for Martha Wells’ novel “Network Effect”
If you like my work, buy me a virtual cup of coffee at Ko-Fi.
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”).
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.
“Artificial” picks up where the previous story leaves off with the “murderbot” on the run, so to speak, after being released by her human clients. Murderbots are considered property, so any independent “unit” is considered a “rogue.”
Murderbots are essentially cyborgs, but controlled by an internal governor, so they have no choice but to obey orders. That said, they do have their own thoughts, will, and preferences (usually not preferring a lot of human contact), but they can’t say “no.”