Murderbot: Network Effect

[Spoliers avoided in the post but I will post spoilers in the comments. So avoid the comments if you don’t want spoilers.]

I sort of gave up reviewing Murderbot a few novellas ago. There is a sense that actually the plot really doesn’t matter and the simplest explanation of an instalment is that its a Murderbot story and the reader either knows the formula or doesn’t and if they don’t then see earlier reviews. However, that belies how much I enjoy each and every one of Martha Wells’s brilliant episodes of Murderbot’s continuing adventures.

The essence of the formula is the juxtaposition of this incredibly vulnerable highly competent killing machine. Murderbot has been shot and blasted and zapped but the struggles with their own sense of self and connections with other people pulls you in.

The novel-length Network Effect works in much the same way as the novellas but extended to novel length by splitting the action into a series of dramatic acts in different locations. There’s an underlying mystery but even that is familiar (corporate shenanigans around an abandoned terraforming colony and alien technology). The story is intended to be a stand-alone so the broader plot around GrayCris and Preservation aren’t the main focus (although discussed). The Asshole Research Transport aka ART is back but…well, spoilers.

What we do get and what each of the novellas have provided is this intentionally slow and deliberate character arc for Murderbot. Their gradual experience with building personal relationships and connections with other people or minds is a feature of the stories. Murderbot coming to understand themselves better and dealing with people better is what drives the stories and pushes them beyond a series of exciting set piece action sequences.

So again, I’m not really reviewing Network Effect. Poke at the world-building of the Corporate Rim and it still doesn’t really make sense and that really doesn’t matter (and also, what we get is Murderbot’s account of how he thinks all of this works and while they are never deceitful they aren’t wholly reliable either). The action is exciting, Murderbot commentary on it is both funny & moving, and there are some warm and fuzzy parts.

14 thoughts on “Murderbot: Network Effect

  1. I think there was actually quite a bit of plot movement in this one, since Murderbot accept’s ART’s offer. I think that opens up the world and will provide a wonderful opportunity for the next book. (Please, let there be a next book.)

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  2. That’s an interesting take on the stories. Sounds like drinking my favorite whisky: it’s enough to praise it once, but I don’t need to describe the details of each consumption.

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  3. I feel compelled to leave one note here: fairly early on, Murderbot talks about an episode of a story in which the main characters are attacked by evil SecUnits. It muses something along the lines of, “Which is like the opposite of an oxymoron, because in the stories all SecUnits are evil.” Then it asks, “Is there a word for the opposite of an oxymoron?”

    Well, silly Murderbot! Of course there is, the Greeks coined words for everything imaginable along these lines. The word you want is “pleonasm”.

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  4. I love this book and have already reread it three times. I don’t have any disputes with your comments, but I feel the need to point out how amazingly funny it is. Ratthi telling Three not to be afraid because he doesn’t want to hurt it? Or Ratthi, Murderbot and Amana discussing Murderbot’s relationship with ART? (“NO!!” “I didn’t mean sexual,” “Is that even possible?”). I could go on, but I’d end up quoting a lot of the book.

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    1. It is so charmingly funny – ART cleaning itself up multiple times when it hears Mensah is coming over and Murderbot not picking up why it is doing that cracked me up more than it should and the book is so full of moments like that.

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  5. God I love Wells’ character work so much, and it’s similarly great in basically all of her novels. In most of her novels though, like the Raksura series, it’s a lot harder to describe as such to another person who hasn’t read them in a way that truly gets at how great the character work is (and they are terrific if you haven’t read them), but with Murderbot the hook makes it easy to describe so I’m not surprised how popular they’ve gotten.

    I never imagined this book would take the most fanfic-y concept ever – Two characters have a baby! – and make it fit absolutely perfectly and charmingly. But Wells pulls it off every time.

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  6. I hope these books will prod people into reading her earlier works. She’s ace at creating characters I love. Also great at world-building and heart-stopping action. One of my 5 favorite trilogies is the Fall of Ile Rien, a comfort read.

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    1. I’m also a big fan of the Ile Rien books—including Element of Fire and Death of the Necromancer, as well as the Fall trilogy. At some point I ought to give them to my teenager. He loved the Raksura books, and recently started reading the Murderbot Diaries. Really, you can’t go wrong with Martha Wells.

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