Artificial Condition – Martha Wells

“SecUnits don’t care about the news.”

If All Systems Red left you wanting more – and oh, did it! – then rejoice, because there’s a whole lot more MurderBot! Usual warning – mentioning anything/one in the second book could be an inadvertent spoiler for the first book. Although I’m guessing it’s no surprise that Murderbot survives – right?! 😉

We pick up right where we left off, meaning the newly – freed? Escaped? Bit of both – narrator of our tale is out on its own for the first time. Free to decide its own actions, the first thing seems to be to research its own past: specifically, what exactly caused it to go a bit Terminator on those previous clients, and was that before or after it hacked its own governor module?

I already thought Murderbot was a hugely – surprisingly? – relatable character, but there was something hit even more about this new anxiety mode. Worried about its status, somewhat unsure about being out in the wide world and even more so dealing with humans on a more equal level, Mb repeatedly talks of the need to escape back into the calm of the shows its likes.

It was Terry Pratchett, I believe, who once said that we’re not so much homosapiens (wise men) as we are pans narans (story telling apes). So to find an artificial intelligent with that same passion for stories is very relatable (also, as an aside, why diversity in publishing is so, so important – if we see other cultures telling their stories, if we can enjoy those tales same as any other, it brings us all closer, I think). As Mb fumbles along, it’s a real joy to see its genuine if un-deliberate likeableness winning over some unlikely allies, and it finding new purpose and drives.

While we move into some danger and a really nice fight scenes, just because it’s a novella doesn’t mean this feels the need to be high-octane action all the time. There are some quiet scenes, and I think in these lie the real joy of these characters. That said, for such a short tale, it’s very satisfying and packs in plenty of story, action, background, and character.

As Thor so well put it: “This tale, I like it. Another!” <smashes kindle to the ground> 😉

Kindle: 176 pages / 9 chapters
First published: 2018
Series: The Murderbot Diaries book 2 (of 6, to date – new one due next month!)
Read from 17th-21st March 2021

My rating: 9/10

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