What We're Reading: Hi! Have you met Murderbot?

Submitted by Durham Tech Library on
Martha Wells' Murderbot Diaries series: All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy
Available at the Main Campus Library

This series was read by Courtney Bippley, Reference Librarian, Lance Lee, Spanish Instructor and TLC Director, and Meredith Lewis, Orange County Campus Librarian. 

Title: The Murderbot Diaries (All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy), a series of 4 novellas

Author: Martha Wells

Genre: Science Fiction

#ReadGreatThings2019 Category: A book about technology [fiction counts for this category, too!]

Why did you choose to read this book? 

  • Courtney (CB): Meredith told me to and I generally trust her judgement. Plus, that fulfills my “Recommended By A Librarian” category for the 2019 Read Great Things Challenge. [And now can fulfill yours too since it’s on the blog!]
  • Lance (LL): Meredith was selling it hard, so I had to take her up on the offer.
  • Meredith (ML): I read a review of it and the book went on sale for $1.99. I bought the book and immediately loved Murderbot as a character. The story was interesting, too—terrain exploration in space,mysterious bad behavior, robots. Awesome. It is also true that I was selling this book hard because I want people to give it a chance!

What did you like about it?

  • CB: It is fun science fiction with action and mystery that lightly touches on larger themes of human consciousness and AI rights. What's not to like?
  • LL: The philosophical question of whether or not this being was alive and should be treated like a human was really compelling.The first-person narrative from Murderbot's point-of-view was humorous and intriguing.
  • ML: Murderbot as a character is extremely relatable, especially after a long day of interacting with people. I think Murderbot also really describes awkwardness well—those times when you don’t quite react in the most suave way? Murderbot understands (well, maybe not, but Murderbot tries to and then stops trying because understanding human behavior is hard, y'all).

Did it remind you of any other book, or a movie?

  • CB: It's a little like The Terminator, minus the time travel and if Schwarzenegger would rather have been watching soap operas.
  • LL: Not a specific book or movie, but it belongs to the genre of "here's this future world with these new ways of functioning, so what would happen?"
  • ML: Parts of the series reminded me a little of Marvin in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, though the two books are not similar in tone at all. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s just robots and snarkiness. And sentient space ships always remind me of that one Futurama episode with the sentient ship (duh?). I’m not going to lie--Murderbot also reminded me a little of myself as a middle and high schooler just being so over other people, like, trying to get into my business. I wasn’t a battle robot, though, so my damage count was mostly tallied in rolled eyes.

Was there anything noteworthy about the book?

  • CB: All the books are short so it's perfect for times when you don't want to commit to something long. And, pretty light when bringing it in your purse somewhere. 
  • LL: I found it to be a unique story that made you think a bit but also fun to read (a.k.a. not too heavy).
  • ML: All Systems Red (the first book in the series) has won both the Nebula and Hugo awards for best novella, and Artificial Condition (book two in the series) just won the Hugo award for best novella.  

What feeling did the book leave you with?

  • CB: Wanting to read the next one.
  • LL: I want to get to know Murderbot in person. I might even watch a Murderbot reality show if they starred in it.
  • ML: Excited that there’s going to be a novel to go along with these novellas! (Currently scheduled for mid-2020.)

What would you pair this book with?

  • CB: Binge watching Battlestar Galactica (the 2004 version), a show I think Murderbot would enjoy.
  • LL: A really long weekend where you wanted to binge read a series.

Does this book have any book or movie friends?

  • CB: If you want a more serious exploration of the topics in the book, I'd recommend Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick [available at the Orange County Campus Library]. Or watching Blade Runner
  • LL: I have to plug Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty [available through ILL]. They both are sci-fi with some elements of mystery (Six Wakes more-so) and set in a universe where new realities can unfold because of technological advances.
  • ML: If you like sentient AI, Autonomous by Annalee Newitz [available at the Main Campus Library] and the Scythe series by Neal Shusterman [available at the Orange County Campus Library] explore it in different ways.