Network Effect
May 15, 2020 7:48 AM - by Wells, Martha - Subscribe

When Murderbot's human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action. Drastic action it is, then.

You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you're a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you're Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.

I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

When Murderbot's human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.
posted by yasaman (18 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have an extremely lot of emotions about the Murderbot/ART relationship after this book. Also, I have known Three for five minutes and I already know it is a perfect angel who has never done anything wrong in its life, ever, and I love it.
posted by yasaman at 9:12 AM on May 15, 2020 [9 favorites]


The problem I have with this series is that it's too good, and I always want another as soon as I'm done.
posted by Anonymous Function at 9:14 AM on May 15, 2020 [5 favorites]


Ooh! A new Murderbot novel!

... and ART is back? Hurray!
posted by porpoise at 9:57 AM on May 15, 2020


You had me at Murderbot. I can't believe I never heard of this series before!
posted by bq at 10:26 AM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]


You had me at Murderbot. I can't believe I never heard of this series before!

Oh yeah envy you so much right now.
posted by Literaryhero at 3:24 PM on May 15, 2020 [6 favorites]


I want to talk about Murderbot/ART because I feel this relationship is.. not great? I’ve read the book twice now and I think I softened on it a little bit but a lot is going to depend on how/if ART grows up a little bit.
posted by curious nu at 5:47 PM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]


I love the Murderbot/ART relationship a lot. They're so goddamn weird about each other, and they're both trying to figure out this whole friendship and caring about other sentient beings thing, and they fuck it up at times but are, ultimately, absolutely ride or die for each other. It's delightful, I love it so much. Murderbot kept ART's communicator where a human's heart would go! ART was ready to blow up a planet for Murderbot! They made a baby together, kind of! ART wants to impress Murderbot's humans!

I also have a lot of half-formed thoughts about how the series portrays intimacy for beings like ART and Murderbot. Martha Wells is doing something really interesting here in having some of the beats of a romance, without any of the other traditional or expected aspects of a romance. Like these are two beings for whom sex and romance aren't really things, and yet, we see the ways they can be intimate and how they can build an intense relationship/friendship/mutual administrative assistance.

I do think ART is, well, a high-handed asshole about getting Murderbot to do what it wants though, what with usually asking for forgiveness rather than permission, but ART and Murderbot are both still learning to person, so I give them some leeway.
posted by yasaman at 7:23 PM on May 15, 2020 [4 favorites]


I think what Wells has done with this series is a. Delightful hilarious protagonist that you love; b. Made each story just long enough.

The beats are just expertly crafted and it's the most fun series I've read in forever.

This one was slightly longer, and it was fine, though maybe the pace did drag in some spots. But not enough to matter.
posted by emjaybee at 9:39 PM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]


This has been my favorite of the series so far. I suspect it's because it's longer. Turns out, what I really wanted was More Murderbot.

Also, I put a "romance" label on my Goodreads review specifically because I thought that doing so would annoy Murderbot.
posted by kyrademon at 2:28 PM on May 16, 2020 [3 favorites]


I do think ART is, well, a high-handed asshole about getting Murderbot to do what it wants though, what with usually asking for forgiveness rather than permission, but ART and Murderbot are both still learning to person, so I give them some leeway.

Except ART has plenty of experience being a person with their own crew, and while kidnapping the Preservation team wasn't their intention, they 100% weren't going to try and return any of the Preservation humans unless/until they got their own crew back. (ART couldn't do that at the time, with a damaged wormhole drive, but they made it pretty clear) ART's not just an asshole, but pretty abusive/manipulative. Which they totally were from the get-go, but now we see how that's expressed when their back is to the wall.

I can see myself having this reaction because, like Murderbot, I'm attached to "my" humans (Preservation). It's bad that ART's crew is kidnapped, but you can't take it out on my crew instead.

So anyway, I'm curious to see how the next book goes.

Also I'm using "they" for the bots here, even though Wells is using "it", and I wonder why she's made that choice, if it's because that's how they're regarded in the cultures.. but that doesn't really track with how ART's crew or the Preservation team interact with their respective bot-friends.

At some point I'd like an exploration about why Murderbot differentiates humans and augmented humans. Through the prose I tend to get a feeling of "stilted computer definitions" of things, never nicknames or abbreviations, and so maybe it's just an affect? Or maybe there's an interesting cultural thing going on there. And there's clearly a line between "a feed interface and maybe a few other odds an ends" and needs-to-be-spelled-out augmentation.

GOOD STUFF:

* Continuing need to flip over and watch a show when there's more than 10 seconds of downtime, or if something's awkward and you just need to check out for awhile.

* Gender language in general. Murderbot almost always defaults to referring to some "person" or a person's name rather than a gender, and the gender tags showed some good nuance in what felt like a really natural way. As a person starting to embrace their own agender/nonbinary identity, this is really affirming to read.

* The company! Learning that Murderbot is self-censoring its narrative.

* I FUCKING HATE LOGOS TOO, MURDERBOT, this is only one of the reasons why I want to be your friend.

* Murderbot's and Mensah's relationship.

* I dunno, pretty much everything.
posted by curious nu at 9:11 AM on May 17, 2020 [2 favorites]


Speaking of romance, maybe ART and Murderbot 1.0's killware baby isn't really gone and it'll return in a future volume having merged with the alien remnant.

I feel like there's a trope in SF generally where authors try to conceptualize "How would AIs have a baby?" because they're somehow locked into a partner+partner=combination of partners thing, and I find it not that useful framing.

I loved this book, love Murderbot generally. If I had one (small) complaint it's that one of the things I love about these books historically is I have a really hard time with "multiple perspective" books where each one is by a different character or happening at a different time. And it's super common in SF and it just creates friction for me. Just my thing, nothing wrong with the books. Her books were always, iirc, one character narrating. This one... doesn't quite do that and so I had that "Spend a few pages confused and sorting out the new perspective" thing towards the end of it. I thought it was masterfully done and raised a LOT of questions. Also I couldn't keep Arada and Amena separate as characters.

Gender language in general.

Wells is really good at this, her use of pronouns is really intentional. I was curious how Matteo was framed, from the get-go, as using they pronouns and I assume it had to do with a feed tag or otherwise, I may have missed a sentence.

I also really liked the odd factionalism with the Targets. "We're not the ones who did that, the bad Targets did!" I would have liked a little more explainy-stuff towards the end about the controlling devices that were implanted. I was so sure towards the end that Murderbot was going to lost its body and then have their consciousness (Murderbot 2.0) somehow implanted into Three and have to re-make some body choices all over again. I'm happy with how everything was sewn up.
posted by jessamyn at 10:04 AM on May 17, 2020


At some point I'd like an exploration about why Murderbot differentiates humans and augmented humans.

Martha Wells mentioned in an interview recently that this is a strictly Murderbot thing: it perceives augmented humans as somewhat more of a threat to its "cover", so it always notices them as augmented humans rather than just humans. Society as a whole apparently doesn't much make a distinction between augmented/non-augmented.
posted by yasaman at 1:33 PM on May 17, 2020 [2 favorites]


Hello, yes, thankyou, may I have more Murderbot? (meatbags)
posted by Marticus at 6:32 PM on May 17, 2020 [1 favorite]


I didn't expect to be shipping Murderbot and Art by the end of this, but here I am. It was about the time when the idea of Murderbot 2.0 being a baby was brought up that I was like "Oh! ....ohhhhhh." I'm hoping we get to see more of Art's background in the future, its position as an uninhibited ship AI seems pretty unique in the world that's been built out.

I was sad to see MB2.0 sacrifice itself but given how we never actually see it die it's entirely possible that it found some way out. Also glad Three didn't end up sacrificing itself, I feel like "You gave me free will so I choose to die for you" isn't what Murderbot needs, and anyway is something that's already been in the series more or less.

I also liked the factions on the surface. It would have been so easy to make the Targets a monolithic evil to fight but making that one small change gives them a lot more depth and nuance. I feel like if Martha Wells wanted to go full on novel with this book she could have built an entire secondary plot about the story of the people on the surface affected by the alien contamination.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:47 AM on June 4, 2020


I am sad because I have now read all the Murderbot.
posted by bq at 8:36 PM on August 25, 2020 [4 favorites]


This series has been my comfort media for a while; I’ve been falling asleep to the audiobooks.

The next novella, Fugitive Telemetry, comes out in April 2021; it fits in the timeline between Exit Strategy and Network Effect, filling in some details about Murderbot settling into Preservation Station, like in the helpme excerpts of Network Effect.

A fan made an animatic, and Martha Wells' reaction was "HOLY SHIT LOOK HOW AWESOME THIS IS"

I think one reason for the extended families is that they help with stability when a parent has to go away on a space trip for months.

I’ve wondered how much various things are worth. SecUnits? The research for strange synthetics by the group that Tlacey tried to rip off and kill?

> [Murderbot] perceives augmented humans as somewhat more of a threat to its "cover"
I think it’s more "as a threat in general," not just to its cover.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:44 PM on October 27, 2020


Fugitive Telemetry comes out tomorrow! There's a virtual book tour starting next week. The short story Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory was posted on Tor.com, originally given free to (some) readers who pre-ordered Network Effect.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:37 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


Made a new post for Fugitive Telemetry (and hope a nice mod will fix the typos before too long).
posted by Coaticass at 5:05 AM on April 29 [2 favorites]


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