Review: the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

I’ve had a pretty intense 2 weeks and very little time to read. Very little time at all, if I’m being honest. What I did get though, is a Scribd subscription, so I thought why not read a couple novellas. I’d read Murderbot Diaries #1 (All Systems Red) on paper, back in May or June and absolutely loved it!

So in the last week or so I read the next 3 novellas and started the Network Effect novel (Murderbot Diaries #5) and I want to tell you all about it!

The Story

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

What I thought of the first book

Another one where I thought I’d written a review back then! So I’m very bad at remembering things, but it’s stayed with me since then with lots of good thoughts and “I gotta read the next one at some point”. I’m also not sure why I “only” gave it 4 stars then.

I really enjoy the grumpy robot trope, and Murderbot really is fun to read. A security robot who just wants to be left alone to watch media? Who thinks humans are stupid and can’t take care of themselves? And who reluctantly finds itsself helping its humans? yeah, loved it! It was very short, but packed a lot. And I always love stories that bring up ethics around robots and non-human sentience so it really hit all the right spots.

The crew it’s with (for some reason I keep gendering Murderbot but it goes by “it” so far) is also diverse, and the whole series gives Wells more opportunities to show diverse cultures, relationships, etc. which is really good.

The Audiobook

First off, even though the books are amazing on their own, I want to tip my hat off to the narrator, Kevin R. Free (aka Kevin in Welcome to Night Vale) for reading Murderbot so well. He gives it a grumpy, deadpan voice dripping with humour and sarcasm and it’s so enjoyable to listen to, I just couldn’t wait to get to the next one every time I finished a book. I did think I recognize his voice so it was funny to me to realise he was in Nightvale, because those two characters are so different!

Because the audiobooks (until now) are roughly 3-4h, it’s really bite-sized, and feels a lot more like a podcast. I’ve been carrying Murderbot round the house as I was doing other things all week, basically!

The series overall

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Yes, yes, I know I said I’ve not finished it. But I can say pretty confidently that I’m enjoying the hell out of it! and that’s that.

I mean, it’s funny, it’s full of important topics and interesting characters, robots or otherwise. I really enjoy the worldbuilding that went into it, and all the things Murderbot is capable of, but the tone of the narration is what really does it for me.

I also think this series should be called Grumpy Series Addicted Robot vs Capitalism. But of course that’s way less catchy! We still get to see better futures, like Preservation where people have universal income and healthcare and don’t have to work their health away for corporations (sounds familiar?) and family units that are not monogamous or heterocentric but that are still portrayed as loving and caring. An asexual robot, humans with various genders other than M and F, with neopronouns… all of that is normal in Murderbot’s world, and it’s really what I like to see in my scifi. Despite the title it’s really a heartwarming series. I want to be Murderbot’s friend!

Oh and the robots… Robots, AIs, constructs… whatever they are, Murderbot hates them almost as much as it hates humans, and like humans it ends up liking them and making friends in spite of itself. Which is both hilarious to read, and sometimes really heartbreaking. Either way, love it!

I’ll be over there, reading the last books in the series and patiently waiting for the next!

Get the books

Amazon UK* | Waterstones | Or read the audiobooks on Scribd*

*these are affiliate links, I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links (or a free month on Scribd) at no extra cost to you

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