By Liz Braswell
In this current timeline, the world has been rather bleak. However, there is a silver lining for readers who enjoy alternate futures. Martha Wells, the talented writer, presents us with another joyful and offbeat adventure featuring the artificial consciousness known as Murderbot.
The Murderbot Diaries began in 2017 with “All Systems Red” and have now reached their seventh installment with “System Collapse” (Tordotcom, 256 pages, $21.99). These captivating stories unfold in a future where corporations reign over humanity’s interstellar colonies, subjecting many to lives of servitude. The worst fate of all is being a SecUnit; a cyborg Security Unit designed to eliminate troublesome individuals, controlled by a module that eradicates free will. However, our first-person narrator, crafty enough to hack itself free, chooses not to seek revenge on its creators or destroy every terrible human it encounters. Instead, this SecUnit, now known as Murderbot, simply wants to indulge in its favorite pastime: watching TV.
If you’re expecting a typical android-becomes-human emotional journey, you may be disappointed. While Murderbot does learn more about humans with each book, it remains grumpy, bored, and uncomfortable when forced to interact with its all-flesh counterparts.
In “System Collapse,” the Barish-Estranza corporation offers assistance to the colonists of a planet plagued by contamination from alien technology. However, their proposal to relocate the colonists seems suspiciously perfect. And as expected, it is too good to be true.
The Cognitively Powerful Space Adventure: Murderbot’s Latest Quest
Working alongside a highly intelligent, yet temperamental spaceship named ART, our cyborg protagonist embarks on a thrilling journey. With the help of a few human companions, Murderbot must combat rogue robots, protect innocent individuals from harmful forces, and find a way to expose the corporation’s true colors to the colonists. Interestingly, Murderbot also experiences peculiar bouts of human-like post-traumatic stress, despite there being no record of the events that triggered them.
Throughout its six previous books, the SecUnit has maintained its snarky and comedic nature, paired with heart-pounding action that never seems to cease. Finally, readers are treated to glimpses of the advantages that Murderbot’s addiction to TV brings. However, if there is one minor flaw in “System Collapse,” it’s the absence of an actual system collapse. Additionally, some sections where humans express emotions may seem excessively lengthy, but that could just be the Murderbot inside of me speaking.
Beyond this series, Ms. Wells has an extensive catalog of exceptional works, one of which is the previously reviewed “Witch King” from earlier this year. Should you desire a lighthearted yet exhilarating experience filled with laughter and a dash of violence, delving into this series may reveal that you share more similarities with Murderbot than you initially believed.
Ms. Braswell is a frequent reviewer of science fiction and fantasy novels for The Wall Street Journal. Her latest publication is “What Once Was Mine.”