Review of “Network Effect” by Martha Wells

This is the first full length novel (following four novellas) of the Murderbot Series, marked as a “standalone” entry, but I would say, eh, not so much. In any event it is worth one’s while to start at the beginning of the series and read through them – every one is a delight.

The protagonist, who is part robot with organic parts, calls itself Murderbot, because of an incident in its past for which it wasn’t guilty, but the appellation stuck. In any event, Murderbot is a security robot, or SecUnit, designed to protect its clients – who are humans – from any threats. But Murderbot has gone “rogue,” having hacked its controlling module so that it now has free will. Murderbot would like nothing better than to spend its time watching all the space adventure series it has downloaded, but still can’t resist the pull to rescue humans from all the scrapes they continually get themselves into.

In this installment, Murderbot is out on a survey with Amena, the teenage daughter of a former client, Dr. Mensah, whom Murderbot particularly like and respects.

The group gets attacked near the planet they’re surveying, with their spacecraft taken over by a ship formerly piloted by Murderbot’s friend ART, an acronym Murderbot made up that stands for Asshole Research Transport.

ART is missing and so is his crew, but a bunch of people apparently contaminated by remnant aliens are on board instead, and they pose a big threat to Murderbot and his humans.

Murderbot has to figure out what happened to everyone (while fighting off emotions – anathema to him – over the loss of ART); get rid of the hostiles; protect his own people – who insist on repeatedly doing dangerous things; and solve the mystery of the planet they are surveying.

There is non-stop violence, action, and adventure, all filtered through Murderbot’s dry sense of humor, sardonic wit, and constant existential angst.

In this book, we get to know Dr. Mensah’s family and friends more, and Amena is everything you could hope for in a snarky but lovable teenager (who comes to call Murderbot “Third Mom.”) We also meet some new characters, and I’m hoping to see them again in more books in the series.

Evaluation: Murderbot has no gender, but I mostly (but not always) think of it as a “he”; perhaps that is just a reflection of my personal bias and/or need to assign gender. No one in the books have that same problem. They are of all races and genders and don’t tend to categorize any others, whether human or not.

The humans in Murderbot’s life can’t help but love and appreciate this very odd SecUnit. Moreover, the desire to make sacrifices to save the other becomes mutual. The episodes are endearing, very humorous, and diverting in the extreme.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Tor, 2020

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4 Responses to Review of “Network Effect” by Martha Wells

  1. Jeanne says:

    There are “episodes” in this novel; good way to put it. I loved getting more, but it was exhausting to follow the murderbot for longer than the length of a novella!

  2. I was soooooo excited to see the return of ART in this book — luckily for my emotions, I had been spoiled as to the fact that ART is in this book and therefore was not worried that ART had died. Poor Murderbot! It never gets a break!

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