Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

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Part 2 in the Murderbot Diaries - Following immediately after the end of All Systems Red, Artificial Condition follows our GenZ Murderbot as they stowaway on an interstellar transport to a far-flung mining station in an attempt to figure out more about the incident in which they went rogue, which caused them to hack their governor module and become a free agent in the first place.

Listened to the audiobook with Kevin R. Free – as before, all right, but I was not too impressed with his performance.

I enjoyed All Systems Red, so when it finished, I immediately pressed play on the next story.

[ ‘Wait!’ you may cry, ‘then why are you only reviewing this story literally two years later?’ The honest answer is, I have had this review on the shelf for two years but I was waiting for Robin’s reviews, because she likes Murderbot a lot more than me. We were talking Murderbot today and it turns out she binge-listened to the whole series and is now unable to review any of them because she can’t tell them apart. Consider that a glowing review on her part. ] 

To be honest, I thought Artificial Condition was a bit less interesting than the first instalment – mostly because we have already had the chance to get to know our main character, and I didn’t connect with them as much as I am finding out many people online did.

As with All Systems Red, I think what sets this story apart from other sci-fi is the way Wells describes the (mostly non-human) characters – the various bots, constructs, and automated programs – and their interactions. And Artificial Condition does indeed introduce or delve deeper into a variety of such robots. Alongside the Murderbot, the reader spends most of their time submerged in a sort of shadow world of feeds, programs and networks with the humans blissfully unaware of what is going on. Unfortunately, while this idea is conceptually interesting, Wells tends to handwave her way through any explanations of her systems without establishing clear rules, so that it feels like, for example, the Murderbot’s hacking capacity always functions exactly as the plot demands. Not that this story has a lot of plot – even more than with All Systems Red, Artificial Condition is carried by the personality of the Murderbot and the other machines it encounters.

And I think that was the main take away for me: I feel the Murderbot Diaries are a series of easy to read, none too deep sci-fi carried by the character of a (for many) relatable robot-human hybrid with social anxiety. If you love the Murderbot, read on; if you don’t… well – this may not be for you.

One final interesting note is that Wells seems to continue the GenZ-theme by slipping in the occasional woke reference – which may feel a bit forced, though I really appreciate that she embraces the enormous diversity in human culture that is bound to exist once we’ve become a multiplanetary species.

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