I’m late to the party for this tense, action filled novella. So far this is the only Martha Wells book I’ve read but I can see why her name keeps appearing among SF fans recommending books.
There is nothing particularly new or original here, just some classic SF tropes artfully combined and a story executed with a confident styles.
“Murderbot” is the secret name that an artificial security cyborg names itself. A mix of organic and mechanical components, Murderbot likes to keep their human face hidden both figuratively and literally. Despite the name (explained within the text), their main desire is some peace and quiet so they can catch up on episodes of their favourite drama “Sanctuary Moon”.
The property of a faceless planet owning corporation, Murderbot has been leased to provide security for a survey team scoping out the commercial potential of an alien planet. What neither the survey or the corporation realize is that Murderbot has hacked their own governance system and despite their impeccable behaviour is in reality a heavily armed rogue cyborg.
Despite some dark plots, murders and monstrous local fauna, this is a very compassionate story. Beyond Murderbot themselves, the individual characterisation isn’t deep but Wells quickly establishes a feel for what the team Murderbot is protecting is like. A mix of well meaning but wary people, the relationship between the survey team and Murderbot has a strong and plausible arc that gives the story some real soul.
Really very nicely done.