Monday, August 13, 2018

SecUnit of My Heart

I was about to name this post Murderbot of My Heart before I looked back and found out that's what I named the post where I raved about All Systems Red, the first book in Martha Wells' incredible, delightful series about everyone's favorite socially anxious, warmhearted killing machine. I can't think of another title, because "my heart" has to be in the post name, because my feelings are going to overflow.

There have been two more books in the series since that first post, and the fourth and final novella comes out in October, at which point I will be buying it on release day and weeping that there isn't any more.  That's what I did with Artificial Condition, the second in the series.  I literally had "Buy Murderbot" in my calendar for that day, which Brenda (who can see my calendar) assumed meant I was feeling particularly stabby that day. (She is now also a huge fan of Murderbot.)

Artificial Condition was excellent; our beloved SecUnit (who doesn't really refer to itself often by name, and whom I don't like calling Murderbot because I love it and won't let it be down on itself) is investigating the events that led to its former murderous rampage, to try to determine how it happened. To get where it's going, it needs allies--like ART, a superintelligent research transport (who learns to love media)--and work, in the form of a security consulting gig that is pretty much as straightforwardly a terrible idea as it seems.

Along the way, our SecUnit meets nice people, pretends to be human, interacts with other bots whose feelings about autonomy are pretty intense, and has to beat up some bad guys.  And watch some Sanctuary Moon reruns, of course.  (I would very much like to watch Sanctuary Moon; if someone wants to create some sort of fan webcomic or something, I would Kickstart that).  In sum, this was great.

Today, though, I finished Rogue Protocol, which I was fortunate enough to get as an ARC from Netgalley for review (thank you,!). Artificial Condition was great, but Rogue Protocol was even better.  Murderbot's investigation has expanded to include GrayCris, the company that tried to kill Dr. Mensah and the rest of the survey party in All Systems Red.  SecUnit is on the trail of proof of larger evildoing by the company, and would like to get evidence to help Dr. Mensah in her legal battle with them. That's how SecUnit ends up with another exploration team, this time investigating a decommissioned terraforming installation that is maybe way more dangerous than it seems.

I love how full of good people these books are.  It might seem kind of sappy sometimes, if there weren't so many bad people, too. But so many competent people are doing the best they can here that you can't help but enjoy watching them all work together. There is another AI character in this one, and watching SecUnit deal with its feelings about Miki--all of those feelings, many of which SecUnit can't quite pin down for itself--is really what makes this all worth it.

I love that this set of books has such a clear character trajectory, as SecUnit really processes what it means to be a free agent in the world--not just that you can choose your friends and causes, but that you almost have to.  It's so clear to the reader that SecUnit is, for some definition of the word, "human" that watching it figure that out for itself is a huge, meaningful adventure to be on.

Also, super competence porn.  I never thought I'd be so excited about armed drones.

However many stars there are to give, this book gets more of them. I will be shoving this book at people for months.  Go read it, please! Now!

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