My favourite android with a heart.

The Murderbot Diaries is a series of books by the American fantasy author, Martha Wells. They won’t be to everybody’s taste, but as a fan of sci-fi and fantasy with a slightly whacky humour, they are just my cup of tea.

Martha Wells has been writing serious fantasy novels for years, about strange planets and strange people – not to my liking. But a few years ago, she changed direction completely and started a series about a terrifying robot called Murderbot, and in doing so she created a sensation that took the sci-fi world by storm. These books are multi-award-winning, high tech, and set in a far distant future and galaxy. They are also cripplingly funny.

The premise
To explain. In a galaxy far, far away (as a famous space opera once started) there exists a world of planets and space stations. Most of these belong to something called ‘The Corporation’ and between the Corporation and other more normal, settled worlds is the Corporation Rim. (I imagine the Corporation as a huge crater in space – figuratively speaking of course – surrounded by the crater rim.)

The world of the Corporation is dominated by cutthroat companies, forever competing with each other. One such is a security company, known as The Company, which leases out security robots. The robots are cyborgs, constructs with human components, ruled by something called their governor module, a function in their brain which will destroy them if they step out of line. Our hero, Murderbot, is one of them but he’s hacked his own governor module and can therefore do as he likes. Because he doesn’t really know what to do with himself, he stays in his job guarding his clients and spends all his spare time watching all his stored media files and soap operas.

One day, while guarding a group of scientists from a non-Corporation world, they are attacked by a ruthless rival company, called GrayCris. Murderbot saves them all, but in doing so reveals that he is, in fact, a free agent. The scientists take him under their wing and many adventures follow, as he tries to protect them from GrayCris.

As we get to know him better, he comes over as a decent guy as well as an angst-ridden philosopher. A very human construct. The stories are told with a bone-dry sense of humour. Murderbot is foulmouthed yet soft-hearted towards his scientist clients. He’s also a terrifyingly efficient killing machine, but with curiously high moral standards. Something which he probably gets from watching all his media.

Why you should read these books
There are so far six books in the series (five relatively short novellas and one full length novel) and they’ve won rave reviews and received lots of awards – deservedly so, in my opinion. In fact, I give each of them 5-Stars – not a rating that I dish out lightly.

The series runs as follows: All Systems Red (2017); Artificial Condition (2018); Rogue Protocol (2018); Exit Strategy (2018); Network Effect (2020) – the full length novel; and Fugitive Telemetry (2021).

They might sound scary, but they’re set in such an unlikely place and time, and with such a funny and reassuring hero, that they don’t make you tense or afraid, just excited and always on the point of laughing.
Review by: Freyja

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