Greetings, friends! I just caught up on all the unanswered blog comments I could find — and I’ll try to be better here on out!
What are you currently reading?
Without much enthusiasm, Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Metazoa. I remembered really liking Other Minds, so I am disappointed by this one, which I’m not finding very readable. I don’t expect much popular science stuff that focuses on biology to be new to me except in the finer details — I read it for a) obscure factoids and b) comfort through familiarity and order — but this one isn’t new and it’s slooow.
I’m also partway through Abaddon’s Gate (James S.A. Corey), and a reread of Fire & Hemlock (Diana Wynne Jones). It’s fun to rediscover the latter now I have a more than passing familiarity with the Tam Lin story.
What have you recently finished reading?
Uhhh, good question… I think the last thing was Network Effect (Martha Wells) and The Churn (James S.A. Corey). The former was a lot of fun; it is nice to hang out with Murderbot. The latter was… superfluous, I think, if you’ve read the main series. It doesn’t tell us much more about Amos than we already knew.
What will you be reading next?
Nooo idea. My brain isn’t cooperating very much, so I think it’ll be a while before I get to reading something else.
I was so excited to learn that there’d be a Murderbot novel, and so excited to get my hands on an ARC, that my performance dropped by several points due to the number of inputs. Which is to say, I started reading the book, was loving it, and then actually I got too wound up by certain events and ended up with a sort of anxiety about picking it up and continuing. Needless to say, I finally did, and many of my wishes for the series were fulfilled by the return of known characters and more exploration of the world.
I don’t really know what to say without being spoilery, because I think the thing that got me wound up is worth getting wound up about on your own terms. I should say that I found some of the interludes a little irritating, because they felt like padding. Though, well, you’ll see if you read it.
I’ll also admit that in some of the scenes where they were all figuring things out and making plans, my brain started derailing and refusing to hold the details in mind. I just sort of trusted to the narrative at that point, and it did work, but there is a lot of talking and negotiating, and there are a lot of characters running round doing their own thing. It might have been a bit sharper through narrowing down the focus to fewer characters. There are two characters who didn’t feel totally integral to the plot, who could’ve been left behind without harming things too much.
However, it’s also delightful to see Murderbot with its people, having returned with them to Preservation. All of Murderbot’s complicated feelings about having friends and being part of a team are on full display in this novel, and it’s lovely to explore. It’s also fascinating to see more of their world (spoiler spoiler spoiler). Despite my quibbles about the dialogue-heavy bits and the extraneous characters, I sped through the book in several large gulps once I settled down to it and started again.
If you’ve loved the novellas, it’s definitely recommended, with the caveat that you may feel the longer format wasn’t as ideal.
Actually, pretty much nothing. There are some books on the Shelf of Abandoned Books that I need to pick back up, but I finished a book earlier and that was pretty much all I had on my plate actually in progress at the moment.
What have you recently finished reading?
My reread of Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey. I remembered it pretty well, in broad strokes, but some stuff I’d forgotten. I’m enjoying getting stuck back into this world: the books are chunky (500-600 pages) but somehow I can easily sit and read 100 pages at a pop.
What will you be reading next?
I will be returning to some books from the Shelf of Abandoned Books, including Network Effect (Martha Wells) for the Mini Battle in the Clear Your Shit Readathon. I’m also planning to start on Laura Lam’s Goldilocks again (which I put down because my anxiety ate my brain right before it came out) and also steam on with rereading The Expanse books, with Abaddon’s Gate up next.
Sorry I missed last week, folks! It was a heckuva week, for sure. Anyway, this week is a bit like a scavenger hunt for me, because I’m not sure I can actually think of books I like with colours in their titles… so I’m going to survey my shelves for whatever I can find.
Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston. I haven’t read this one, and I really really want to.
The Silver Branch, by Rosemary Sutcliff. This I have read, of course, though I wish I could find the editions I had as a kid. I read ’em to pieces, though The Eagle of the Ninth was my favourite.
The Boy in the Red Dress, by Kristin Lambert. A recent acquisition, so one I haven’t read yet. It looks so fun, though!
Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James. I haven’t read it yet, and I’m not entirely sure it’s going to be my thing based on reviews… but I’m eager to give it a go.
Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse. Okay, this is actually on my wishlist and not on my shelves because it’s not out yet.
All Systems Red, by Martha Wells. Oh, Murderbot. <3
Redemption in Indigo, by Karen Lord. I’ve been meaning to reread this, I remember loving it but not much about it.
The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark. Loved this novella so much!
The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle. I was less of a fan of this Lovecraft retelling, but it kinda sticks in my head!
A Pale Light in the Black, by K.B. Wagers. Another one that’s on my TBR but which I haven’t read yet…
As you can see, I have a TBR problem, insofar as that can be considered a problem!
How’d everyone else do with the scavenger hunt? Or could you think of enough books with colours in the title that you could pick out your favourites? I’m looking forward to seeing all the obvious ones I’ve missed…
Exit Strategy wraps up the novella series by bringing Murderbot full circle: back to Dr Mensah and her team, the people it helped in the first book. Second-guessing itself, hating the idea of becoming a pet bot, but nonetheless needing to help the person who is (nominally, at least!) its owner, Murderbot finds that Dr Mensah is probably a hostage and goes ahead with doing what it does best. Planning, worrying extensively, and then throwing itself headlong into trouble.
If I didn’t know there was a novel coming as a follow-up, I’d be really mad about this final book, honestly. The second and third books gave us some development for Murderbot, of course, but they also gave us characters I’d really like to see again. Particularly ART, though I’d like to know what became of everyone else as well. It’s not that this book doesn’t give a kind of closure, because it does, but it doesn’t wrap things up in the kind of everything-converges-and-everybody-meets ending I guess I was hoping for.
It’s enjoyable, and Murderbot remains a delight. But I want more!
In Rogue Protocol, Murderbot figures out a way it can help Dr Mensah, though naturally while it gets to work on that it ends up entangled with — what else? — protecting a whole new group of humans, along with their pet robot, Miki. Murderbot has a lot of complicated feelings about the relationship between Miki and Abene, which is obviously a parallel to that between Murderbot and Dr Mensah.
This one didn’t really stick in my head very well before I reread it — I knew it was the one with Miki, of course, but to me it’s the least distinctive so far. It’s a bit like the second book over again, with a slightly less compelling companion/foil for Murderbot. It’s not bad, and of course it leads to Murderbot’s conclusion about what it needs to do at the end, but it doesn’t sparkle for me in quite the same way.
Very much looking forward to getting into the final act properly now, with everything fresh in my mind. Here goes…!
Artificial Condition might be my favourite book of the quartet so far on this reread (though I haven’t read the last book yet). It features ART, Asshole Research Transport (so-called by Murderbot), and the interactions between the two are just a delight. Murderbot stows away on ART, only to find that the intelligence controlling the ship is far greater than usual, and very curious about Murderbot, its motives, and where its going. With ART’s help, Murderbot disguises itself to look a little more human, and even ends up with a human job as a security consultant, which it naturally takes very seriously. Protecting humans, after all, seems to come naturally — as long as Murderbot can snark about them being idiots to itself in private, at least.
Really, my favourite parts are the way ART and Murderbot interact when they’re alone, the tentative trust between them, and of course the fact that they watch Netflix and pretend not to have feelings about it. The part where Murderbot is actually figuring out its past and helping the humans from the team it works as a security consultant for is a bit secondary, though ART does add commentary and help throughout.
I really do hope we see more of ART (and understand some of the mysteries around ART, because really, why is that AI so independent and well armed?). I do enjoy the episodic nature of these novellas, but I’m also looking forward to the idea of an actual Murderbot novel with more room in it to roll around in.
“Oh no, I’m having a feeling” just about sums up poor Murderbot’s life. But I’m starting in the middle here. Let’s go back to the beginning: All Systems Red is the first novella in a series. Murderbot is the main character, an organic/machine hybrid created for guard duty and overall security. Murderbot is, as of this novella, deployed with a group of overall quite decent humans who are surveying a planet. When things start to go wrong, it turns out that Murderbot is their best chance. You see, Murderbot’s hacked its own governer module, and that means it has a degree of free will not normally enjoyed by constructs like itself.
(It has no illusions about what it is, hence the name “Murderbot”, which it has given itself.)
Dr Mensah and her team turn out to be rather great human beings, and they react well to Murderbot’s free will, allowing it to help them and ultimately… well, no spoilers! Suffice it to say that Murderbot spends quite a bit of time with them, to its own dismay. Humans are difficult, and it would much rather be watching the equivalent of Netflix.
It’s just all… so charming, despite being murdery — Murderbot has a lot of anxiety and yet also cares about the humans its meant to be protecting. It doesn’t have to take risks to help them, but it does. I would say I want to give Murderbot a hug, but the poor thing would be utterly horrified at the idea.
I’ve read All Systems Red before, of course, but I haven’t read the final novella in the series, so a reread seemed like a great idea. I agree, past self! It was a great idea. Murderbot makes me happy.
Yay! More Murderbot! My one quibble so far is really that both books have had Murderbot meet up with other people, we learn just enough about them to be invested, and then they end up parting ways. I want more of ART, particularly; I want more of the team that Murderbot protected in the first book — gaah, just have everyone come together and have adventures already!
Nonetheless, I enjoyed Murderbot’s interactions with ART a lot, and I’m very curious about ART’s crew as well. I loved them basically doing Netflix and chill together, and I loved ART’s bossy but well-meaning way of trying to help Murderbot — and especially ART’s understanding of the things that Murderbot isn’t ready to articulate or face, and the way ART pushes Murderbot to look more human, act more human, blend into the background more…
I also enjoyed getting to know a tiny bit more about Murderbot’s past. I’m going to guess there’ll be more about that and the ComfortUnits later on; I’m intrigued to get wherever this is going. I just hope ART is there too! And some time for ART and Murderbot to sit down and watch some Worldhoppers or Sanctuary Moon together. <3
All Systems Red is the diary of a self-proclaimed murderbot — a part organic, part synthetic construct designed to protect groups of colonists, and perfectly capable of going wrong and killing them all. Hence, Murderbot — although our Murderbot has disabled the system that they think caused them to do that, and manages to take pretty good care of its little group of prospectors while also mainlining a ton of soaps and whatever other entertainment programs come its way.
I found it all very entertaining, but there was a more serious aspect, too: the Murderbot’s misanthropic attitude and even anxiety about interacting with humans, especially without its suit and opaque helmet on as a buffer. Thus the interactions with the team were a little sad as well as funny — if not sad, perhaps the right term would be invested with pathos, especially as they interact more and more with their employers (contractors? not sure quite what the term should be).
I was a little disappointed by the ending, leaving behind the established team. Obviously there’s gonna be more Murderbot, but… with a new cast otherwise? Boo. I was just getting to like ’em.