Network Effect by Martha Wells
The plot, basically: MURDERBOT AND ART TEAM UP TOGETHER BUT NOT REALLY BECAUSE ART IS AN ASSHOLE AND IT’S AMAZINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG
The plot, slightly more professionally: Murderbot is sorta kinda figuring it out. It’s now a contractor with Dr. Mensah’s team, but during a routine(ish) expedition where it foiled an attempted pirate boarding and then got everyone home, its crew is ambushed and kidnapped by none other than ART. ART, who has lots its crew and itself and is possessed by grey-skinned Targets in search of a Weapon…and who will do anything they can to find it. Now it’s up to Murderbot to save the day, protect its humans (no matter how annoying), and figure out a way to bring back its not-friend from the deleted bin.
“No hugging,” I warned her. It was in our contract. “Do you need emotional support? Do you want me to call someone?”
OMG I just loved this book. If the novellas were all about Murderbot figuring out its freedom, this was it figuring it out just a little bit more, and showing other constructs freedom as well—and about a not-friendship between two AIs who are very much not speaking to each other or on good terms at all, thank you. (mild spoiler: ART is recovered)
Murderbot maintains its snarky humor, and its Not-Feelings-At-All-Because-It’s-A-Murderbot, and while the plot sagged a little in the middle, the beginning and endings were wild rides and honestly I just loved the characters so much that the rest of the review is probably just going to be me quoting the entire book.
Aside from the humor, there are themes of trauma and recovery and what recovery looks like, in addition to the ever-present themes of humanity, sentience, love and friendship and relationships. And the importance of media in helping some folks figure out how people tick.
“I apologize for calling you a fucker.”
It said, “I apologize for kidnapping you and causing potential collateral damage to your clients.”
Things really start to get good with ART returns, because with the addition of humans (and ARTs protective fascination with juveniles—poor Amena, who is put into an unenviable position between two AIs) they have to navigate their relationship, ART’s kidnapping of Murderbot to rescue both it and its crew and the fact that it accidentally kidnapped Murderbot’s humans and almost killed them and oops it didn’t really care because they weren’t ART’s crew…and a lot of other things.
You can either have an existential crisis or get your crew back, ART, pick one.
Anywho, if the first two thirds of the book are piracy and then kidnapping gone awry, the last third is straight bonkers. I laughed, I cried, and then I cried again because vicious little Murderbot 2.0 (which calls itself that) is amazing, and well, I just need a second book.
Or another novella.
It doesn’t matter, I need more Murderbot in my life. And more Murderbot with ART.
I told her, “It’s an anagram. It stands for Asshole Research Transport.”
Amena blinked. “That’s not an anagram.”
“Whatever.” Human words, there’s too many of them, and I don’t care./blockquote>
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review
Network Effect released May 5, 2020, from Tor.com