2018’s Artificial Condition is the second volume in Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries. A review of the first volume, All Systems Red, is here.
Rather than trust its fate to humans, no matter how well intentioned, the freethinking construct calling itself Murderbot decides to evade its protectors and find freedom. But first, a few loose ends to be cleared. Such as what role Murderbot might have played in the deaths of dozens of people on planet RaviHyral.
Step one is getting to aforesaid obscure world without being exposed as a rogue SecUnit and forcibly returned to factory settings.
Bored AIs piloting interstellar transport ships turn out to be very observant.
Providentially, ART the AI isn’t interested in turning a fellow artificial person over to the humans. It’s much more interested in making a new friend and helping that friend on an exciting journey of self-discovery. Lucky for Murderbot, because Murderbot’s original plan would worked right up to the moment Murderbot tried to put into it action.
With ART’s help, Murderbot can pass for something other than an obvious SecUnit. It will still need an excuse to visit RaviHyral’s surface. An excuse providentially turns up: Murderbot can serve Rami, Tapan, and Maro as a hired security consultant. The human trio plan to meet with their former boss Tlacey, and recover some research data they were forced to leave behind.
Complications ensue. Murderbot finds that even though its role as a hired security consultant is just a disguise, it cannot let its extremely naïve clients be murdered by their nasty former boss. Keeping the trio alive will be quite challenging.
In my defence, while I did see the On Sale May 2018 notice on the cover, and knew that as a responsible reviewer I should not tantalize the legions of Murderbot fans with a review of a book that is unobtainable by non-reviewers, I found that it’s very hard for me to resist temptation when it’s in the form of a physical book. Just sitting there. Taunting me.
I know people who keep an eye out for asexual and/or a‑romantic characters. I am not sure if Murderbot counts exactly, but it is definitely asexual. It is offered the opportunity to add sexual behaviour to their repertoire … and turns it down.
On the warm, cuddly side, Murderbot makes friends! What ART lacks in social skills, it makes up for with sincerity and hacking skills (not to mention what may or may not be a laser cannon). Even Rami, Tapan, and Maro are pleasant characters who actually LIKE their odd security consultant.
Murderbot needs all the friends it can get because it’s not legally a person. Just a rogue appliance that can be destroyed if necessary. Not that it should be necessary; most SecUnits and Sexbots are controlled by governor units that ensure obedience. Slaves with shackled minds.
Building on the first novel in the Murderbot sequence, All Systems Red, Artificial Systems chronicles more of Murderbot’s self-discovery and adventure in autonomy. It’s also a fine self-contained adventure about the problems Murderbot faces keeping its hapless clients alive. It’s a fine sequel to All Systems Red, as you will see when you buy it yourself.
In seven months.…