Book Review – ‘Network Effect’ (#5 The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells

The best team-up in the universe…

Genre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 350

You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.

I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.

I just love Murderbot, and in my past reviews for the previous novellas in this series I was hoping ‘Network Effect’ would be a Murderbot/ART team-up that involved some sort of contact with alien remnants, or a first contact scenario, maybe not quite that but this novel was everything I could have dreamed of.

As fast and easy a read as ‘Network Effect’ was (and the pacing fairly standard throughout) it read a lot like a longer version of the serialised novellas. So there were moments where the pacing dropped off a little. The format Murderbot Diaries has been following in the novellas does not work as well in a full length novel… you need more than one or two twists/reveals, and you need a lot more character development and exploration of secondary characters and their arcs. ‘Network Effect’ did manage this successfully, but it wasn’t a home run. I still had so many unanswered questions. But this is a part of an on-going plot that is continuing on for another four confirmed sequels. So rather than look at this as a standalone novel, or a novel in the traditional sense, I’m viewing it as another novella addition/episode… that happens to be a ‘big’ novella.

Murderbot gets put through the ringer again and we see him get shot, maimed, and suffer forced reboots. It’s become standard that Murderbot will sustain some sort of damage in each adventure; all while pondering its existence, meaning, and relationships.

The snarky/abusive banter between ART and Murderbot is up front and centre in ‘Network Effect’ and added much needed comic relief – and this time some of the humans get let in on the jokes. But in this episode we see the human-type failings of the personalities from both Murderbot and ART.

I wanted a few bigger twists and reveals from ‘Network Effect,’ for some reason the plot did not feel big enough for what I’ve expected from the series to date. But the concept of Abandoned/Reclaimed colonies and seeing the effects of actual alien remnants was a joy. It’s been hinted at for so long in the series, it was so much fun to have a front row seat to an encounter…. well not for the characters in the story, but definitely for the reader.

We start to see a real jump in the expanding universe of Murderbot and I am excited for the possibilities.

The story was mostly predictable with the exception of final reveal – but it wasn’t too shocking, so I think that’s where the slightly underwhelming feeling come from.

Wells does a brilliant job of constructing the world of the Colony, space, and constructs (AI/bots), as well as that of an alien threat. I was completely engrossed and not pulled from the narrative once.

I also loved the discussion of what a friendship or relationship means/is for an artificial construct. Though it’s not defined, ‘Network Effect’ takes some solid steps in that direction. Now I’m totally amped up for the next in the series ‘Fugitive Telemetry.’

Overall feeling: Everything, everywhere, all at once.

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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