By Martha Wells
Murderbot, the gruff yet lovable, media obsessed Security AI is back in Rogue Protocol, the latest tale in Martha Wells’ The Murderbot Diaries, a Tor.com series of novellas. In the first story, the Nebula Award winning All Systems Red, Murderbot, a self-nicknamed security robot, secretly hacks into its governor module and gains its freedom from its human contracts. Other than enjoying entertainment media, its goal is to recall a lapse in its memory regarding the night its prior contracts were all killed, and the mystery surrounding that night. Eventually venturing out on its own, the story continues in Artificial Condition with Murderbot planning to travel to the site of the massacre. Enlisting the help of ART, a funny and sardonic transport vessel who gives Murderbot sass as much as it takes it back from Murderbot, the two travel together in an odd couple scenario before Murderbot is dragged into helping another set of humans.
This time around, Murderbot is continuing its journey toward discovering what happened the night its human contracts were all murdered. Posing as a security consultant and problem solver for a group of humans, the rogue SecUnit finds itself on the site of an abandoned terraforming project once run by GrayCris, the mysterious organization which may have something to do with the murder. Undercover and bothered at having to put its media passion on hold, Murderbot explores its new surroundings for clues.
Along the way toward the site, it encounters a new transport vessel named Miki. Unlike ART, Miki is naive and merely wants to help and protect its humans no matter the cost, at times to the chagrin of Murderbot:
When I called it a pet robot, I honestly thought I was exaggerating. This was going to be even more annoying than I had anticipated, and I had anticipated a pretty high level of annoyance, maybe as high as 85 percent. Now I was looking at 90 percent, possibly 95 percent.
Wells continues to widen the world of The Murderbot Diaries while simultaneously making Murderbot relatable to the reader. By this point in the series, Murderbot has come across three separate groups of humans to assist, and is still dealing with its newfound freedom and autonomy. At one point, accidentally revealing itself as a SecUnit, Murderbot thinks:
Oh, Murderbot, what did you do?
(I don’t even know. I suspect it has to do with the fact that I went from being told what to do and having every action monitored to being able to do whatever I wanted, and somewhere along the way my impulse control went to hell.)
With one novella to go in the series, October’s Exit Strategy, Rogue Protocol is another tightly paced adventure in the series. With the way the story is heading, expect plot lines to be wrapped up and mysteries to be resolved with the release of Exit Strategy. According to Murderbot:
“I hate caring about stuff. But apparently, once you start, you can’t just stop.”
As with Murderbot and its feelings toward humans and other things outside of its entertainment media world, once Wells has her hooks into the reader, they truly cannot stop caring about the rogue and sarcastic AI.
Written on 1st October 2018 by Michael Feeney.