Hugo 2019 Novellas: Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

I read this sometime ago and there have been two further instalments of Murderbot’s adventures since. Looking at it again in the context of the Hugo Awards raises a tricky dilemma: how to see the second novella in the series as a thing in itself distinct from the series as a whole? This is further compounded by the deep affection I have for Murderbot as a character, who is a vulnerable empathy magnet of insecurities covered in high-tech weaponry.

Artificial Condition is the one with the asshole research transport (ART) but also the one in which Murderbot has a series of interactions with other AIs as they investigate the site of Murderbot’s mass killing. While All Systems Red introduced the character and the universe of corrupt corporations in which the series is set, Artificial Condition begins the journey of Murderbot and the wider arc of the series. The template for future stories is established and Murderbot changes both as a character and in appearance, gaining more agency in the process.

Although the four novellas do work together as longer story, they do work as connected episodes. I can’t think of a good reason why you’d read them out of order or skip All Systems Red but if you did, the stories would work up to a point.

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