“I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.
The Robot Wants To Be a Real Human is a well-worn story archetype, one I’m sympathetic too, but one that’s been played out and dissected well past the point of exhaustion. It’s been around since, at the latest, Pinocchio and has been examined and re-examined since. As such, when I started on The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, and more or less until I was halfway through Exit Strategy, I’d kind of just assumed that this was what it was doing. It was an unfair assumption, and one that I feel dumb about in retrospect, and one that was unfair to the series.
Because the Murderbot Diaries isn’t quite a Pinnochio story. It doesn’t ask ‘can a robot be human’ but instead ‘what does it mean for a robot to be a self-actualized robot’ and that is ripe fodder for exploration.
The Murderbot Diaries follow Murderbot, a security android that overrode the code binding it to its human masters and that primarily wants to watch pirated media and not come to the attention of its corporate overlords. Things go wrong, there’s adventure, gunplay, and excessive amounts of corporate malfeasance, and pretty swiftly Murderbot is rogue. The plotting’s clever, the writing’s solid, and it’s big on themes of corporate malfeasance and injustice, but none of that’s really what I want to focus on in this article.
So instead I shall ask you to take me at my word. Murderbot is good: it’s emotional, it’s fun, and it has a lot to say about an interesting future. One where humanity has made enormous strides socially and technologically, yet is still embroiled by the same petty monstrosity and perverse incentives we’ve had since the invention of currency. The books are short but well-paced, and while the perspective can be weird and dry Murderbot is a treat to follow and a surprisingly endearing main character. If you want a yes/no on reading it and don’t want spoilers, I encourage you to pick up the novellas and finish them before reading on.
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