Recently I read the first of (and then promptly inhaled the rest of) Martha Well’s Murderbot Diaries! This series of novellas (with the exception of Network Effect, which is a full length novel) is written from the perspective of a SecUnit, a human/robot construct designed to act as a security guard on human space missions. I was drawn to this series not only because of the gorgeous cover art and the fact that the main character’s name is freakin’ Murderbot (clearly, I need to up my character-naming game), but because of the fascinating and hilarious premise:
After many gruelling years spent under human control, Murderbot has disabled its “governor module” and gone rogue. And what does this absolutely jacked, guns-for-arms security robot do with its newfound free will? Murder the rest of the crew perhaps, in typical rogue-AI fashion?
No. It watches several thousand hours of TV dramas while on the job.
It didn’t take me long to fall in love with this series. The contrast between Murderbot’s flawlessly capable performance in combat situations and its self-deprecating, darkly funny narration is just delightful, and I really enjoyed watching its friendship with the human crew unfold. (Plus, you know my nonbinary ass was thrilled to have a genderless protagonist!) But it isn’t all touching character moments, of course; the universe of The Murderbot Diaries is not a happy one, and Wells pulls no punches in examining how the trauma of being controlled—either by a governor module, or by an oppressive capitalist system—affects her characters’ lives.
In short: Murderbot is wonderfully engaging protagonist, and Martha Wells does some very interesting work throughout the series on personhood and the dehumanizing nature of capitalism. Highly recommended—give it a read!