Network Effect

Network Effect by Martha Wells

A Murderbot Novel

The Murderbot Diaries #5


The Murderbot Diaries began as four award-winning novellas (All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy) and has become so much more. Another novella, Fugitive Telemetry, is already slated for April of 2020. I have read and reviewed all The Murderbot Diaries 1 – 4 in my previous post, so be sure to check that out, as well.

Let me start by saying that I borrowed both the ebook and the audiobook from my local library, and listened to the audiobook twice, back to back, while flipping through the ebook. NETWORK EFFECT is the first book I’ve ever read twice in a row; it’s just that good. I couldn’t get enough of Muderbot and its banter. It felt so real, so visceral and imperfect. It’s not an anti-hero, but it’s not the typical main character, either, and I love that.

NETWORK EFFECT stars a sarcastic, antisocial SecUnit that refers to itself as “Murderbot.” Once restrained by a governor unit that would punish, erase, and/or kill it if it disobeyed orders, Murderbot hacked its controls but continued to work as a SecUnit because it didn’t know what else to do. Other than download and watch thousands of hours of serials in its downtime, it had nothing better to do. And it was built for its job. It is hard to kill, armed, and able to monitor security and drone feeds, and its main job is simply to keep stupid humans from getting themselves killed. 

So when its humans are captured, the SecUnit can choose to do nothing. Murderbot wasn’t built to have a choice, and its internal debates whenever it must make a decision are one of the many things that endear it to me. Mostly, though, it’s the way it interacts with its humans… and other artificial intelligences. The dialogue in NETWORK EFFECT is stellar.

My two favorite lines, however, are from Murderbot’s thoughts. When a human says to Murderbot, “Just remember you’re not alone here.” It thinks:

I never know what to say to that.

I am actually alone in my head, and that’s

where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

I completely relate to that. I think everyone might. The second line that really touched me is:

was anxiety an emotion? It sure felt like one  

As a person who has struggled with anxiety all my life, it definitely feels like an emotion to me.

For an artificial intelligence/human hybrid that wasn’t designed to deal with or discuss emotions or existential thoughts, Murderbot often touches on some deep stuff. But mainly it’s all about sarcasm, watching serials, and disdain for humanity. As NETWORK EFFECT’s promos say, Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century. The space battles are great, but it’s Murderbot that steals the show. It absolutely is the most relatable A.I. of this century.

Cover art by Jaime Jones. Cover design by Christine Foltzer. Audiobook narrated by Kevin R. Free.

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