Review: The Murderbot Diaries
by Jermuk Dolma
Issue 6: Industry | 357 words
Stupid humans, right? Always coming up with bad ideas and then doing them. You try to just ignore them, but then you start caring. This is the sentiment of Martha Wells’ Murderbot, the first-person narrator in a series of four novellas about a robot gone rogue. The genderless Murderbot was created to be a sentient weapon with the mission of protecting bands of humans as they explore remote planets. Murderbot is supposed to fight and follow human orders, and Murderbot’s fine with the fighting, as long as they don’t have to talk to anyone. So Murderbot hacks their own brain, freeing them from having to follow human orders. But that doesn’t free them their own conscience. “I was having an emotion,” says Murderbot, “and I hate that.” How can you not relate? They just want to watch bad TV and hide in a closet. But the outside world—and Murderbot’s own desire to keep human’s from getting themselves killed—keep getting in the way. So much of the series is about mistakes—why we do something when we know it is a bad idea, what we do after, and how that makes us who we are, whether we like that or not. “You may say, ‘I know I’m not perfect. I’ve made mistakes.’ I am here to tell you that you have made more than you think.” Murderbot remembers your mistakes, and Murderbot has made their own. The four books, All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy, work as a four-part series. They move quickly, each takes place right after the other and the overarching story wraps up at the end of the fourth book, although a novel is expected in April 2020. This series is held together by the voice of the narrator, and Murderbot is a delight to listen to. Through the books, Murderbot faces a constant struggle between wanting to do nothing and wanting to do the one thing they’re good at: keeping humans from accidentally killing themselves. “I wanted to put my fist through the nearest corporate logo. Idiotic humans don’t understand how to be safe!” Sound familiar?
Dolma is a graduate from Starfleet Academy and writes music, words for music, words for podcast, and also records and reads a lot of science fiction.