Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2), by Martha Wells

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Murderbot Diaries strangely appeal to me. As I’m still on my way to the full length novel, recently published, I’m wondering at the simple elegance and straightforwardness of the novellas.

This second instalment in the series is, thankfully, pretty much more of the same in a very good way. We still get a good view of a “construct” that’s basically a robot with human parts – and it shows: Murderbot feels slightly like it’s a person on the autism scale.

I skimmed it but most of my attention was on getting through the crowd while pretending to be an ordinary augmented human, and not a terrifying murderbot. This involved not panicking when anybody accidentally made eye contact with me.

This time, Murderbot is literally and metaphorically on a journey: Having recently run away from its benefactor of the first novella, Dr. Mensah, it’s now literally on the way to dig into its own – murderous? – past. Metaphorically speaking, Murderbot is on a journey to find itself, to find out what it actually wants – if having a guardian is actually the same as having an owner and other questions.

On the way to this transit ring, alone on my empty cargo transport, I had had a chance to do a lot of thinking about why I had left Mensah, and what I wanted. I know, it was a surprise to me, too. But even I knew I couldn’t spend the rest of my lifespan alone riding cargo transports and consuming media, as attractive as it sounded.

Fortunately, it finds a friend in ART, a Research Transport, with computing power beyond even its own comprehension. When Murderbot gets itself hired by a human “crew”, things quickly become complicated because lurking beneath waves of “non-caring” is a complicated being that has more in common with us humans than it likes to admit. Murderbot feels more compelled to help its humans by them asking it to than it ever was by its long-gone governor chip. And yet it’s still the socially-impaired escapist media junky:

I wanted to just sink into my media downloads for a while and pretend I didn’t exist.

Murderbot acts uncompromisingly human and is just as full of flaws as the rest of us. Unlike the rest of us, though, it transcends those flaws if it has to.

If that doesn’t give the rest of us nerds hope, what could?

Suspenseful, intelligent, cool science fiction.

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