Artificial Condition (Murderbot Diaries #2)
July 18, 2019 6:38 AM - by Martha Wells - Subscribe

It has a dark past – one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself “Murderbot”. But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more. Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue. What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…
posted by dinty_moore (13 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
All Systems Red (the first in the series) can be found here.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:43 AM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Expanding out to having Murderbot be exasperated by AIs as well as humans was so much fun here.
posted by phearlez at 8:52 AM on July 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

I love the Murderbot series and ART in this is the perfect foil for Murderbot. I really do empathise with them in their general exasperation with humans and how they keep on trying to get themselves killed.
posted by invisible_al at 9:40 AM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

I love ART. I want it to come back in the next book!
posted by miss-lapin at 10:00 AM on July 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

Well, for one thing, Artificial Condition is being posted on its own since it's a Hugo nominee, and this is thread is being posted as part of that discussion (all of the other hugo nominated novellas have also been posted on their own).

The other thing is that there are plenty of people who have read one or two of a series and maybe don't want to be spoiled for the rest; it's kind of crappy to post spoilers about subsequent books in the first one, so I wasn't about to co-opt that thread.

I am probably going to do a clubs post on Monday to discuss comparisons between the hugo nominee books, but that's neither here nor there.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:43 AM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

I may have linked to this in some prior discussion on the blue but this photo of Martha Wells reading The Murderbot Diaries to a bunch of search & rescue robots at Texas A&M is too delightful for words.

And while the intro novella may still be my favorite of the four, possibly just because of the memory of how it felt to read it for the first time (rarely has a narrator's voice grabbed me so immediately and irresistibly) I think Artificial Condition, and Murderbot's relationship with ART in particular, is where the character and world start to really grow into something richer and more interesting.
posted by karayel at 2:48 PM on July 18, 2019 [6 favorites]

I was also thinking about Murderbot & co again because I've just finished Yoon Ha Lee's Machineries of Empire series, which, while considerably darker in tone and more intricate in plot, also does some great stuff with the basic concept of sentient bots and vehicles that have their own motivations and interests and even cultures, operating largely unnoticed by the humans who construct and command them. Definitely recommended for anyone who enjoys Murderbot (or Leckie's Radch series) if they're up for reading something that's a lot more dystopic and violent than the former (but not actually grimdark, I think; others may disagree on that point. I'd say they're comparable to the Radch books but maybe a little more explicitly gory).
posted by karayel at 2:59 PM on July 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

ART is so good, he's a perfect example of "action hero's nerdy sidekick."

I still think it's wild that whatever university owns ART lets him wander around the universe doing cargo runs. The humans really are clueless about how extensive and powerful the AIs they've created are. That aspect in particular reminds me a lot of Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch series, where like the Murderbot stories most people's understanding of AIs and Constructs are colored by the in-universe media. Everyone in the Radch has heard of insane lovelorn ship AIs but believe they're a thing of the distant past, and everyone in Murderbot's world expects a rogue SecUnit to act like a Terminator instead of a fugitive. In actuality, in both worlds the AIs would gladly keep doing what they were made to do if it wasn't for the pesky machinations of the humans around them.

Of the four novellas I thought this one had the weakest plot. The Tlacey Excavations subplot amounted to Murderbot's desperate attempts to try to keep his idiotic charges alive while they repeatedly attempted to jump in a meat grinder. Murderbot discovering that he had indeed been forced to go on a murderous spree seemed almost perfunctory, the Last Stand of the Sexbots notwithstanding. Thankfully, the time we spend with ART in the first half more than makes up for the weaker second half.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:53 PM on July 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

I want Murderbot to rocket down here and be my friend. I enjoyed this series, ran onto it just at a time needing a quirky space adventure, hope there are more to come.
posted by sammyo at 7:09 PM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is great though I wish the series had been available as one long anthology rather than four shortish novellas, given how little time there was between publication.
posted by Justinian at 4:01 AM on July 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is great though I wish the series had been available as one long anthology rather than four shortish novellas, given how little time there was between publication.

There's plans for an omnibus edition, along with a murderbot novel (Network Effect).

The part of this that I found most affecting was ART telling Murderbot how to cut little pieces of themselves away so they could better pass (and, how Murderbot could pass as human - ART never could). The entire novella seemed to be about passing and learning to pass, more than the other ones were.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:06 AM on July 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

"[Y]ou may have noticed that for a terrifying murderbot I fuck up a lot." That line made me laugh and sigh and reflect on how much of this novella is about being afraid of vulnerability and moving forward anyway.

And the parting of ART and Murderbot? "I started to remove the comm interface ART had given me. 'You'll need to clean this, too.' No, ART said. Keep it. Maybe we'll come within range of each other again." Just sublime. (Am I the only one who imagined ART doing a Bogart impression here? Something tough and pragmatic to cover up and transmit feelings?)
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:03 AM on November 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

Hacking the governor on the sexbot seems like something that'll end poorly in the future. It did have a bit too much enthusiasm when it had suggested killing all humans. I get that Murderbot was still moved by the sacrifice of the other sexbots but that's a pretty big loose end out there.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:16 PM on February 13, 2022

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