Martha Wells has been writing science fiction since 1995 and was nominated for major awards in the field on several occasions. But her breakthrough came in 2018 when she won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and the American Library Association’s Alex Award for All Systems Red. That book kicked off what is to date a series of six novellas, the Murderbot Diaries, including Artificial Condition, which also won the Hugo and Locus Awards. So Rogue Protocol, the third in the series raised great expectations. The publisher calls Murderbot “sci-fi’s favorite antisocial A.I.” The novella continues Wells’ tongue-in-cheek saga of a far-future security robot (SecUnit) who just wants to be left alone, and it’s satisfying up to a point. However, I found myself tiring of the cuteness, my mind wandering as the Murderbot became embroiled in one death-defying scrape after another.
Rogue Protocol (Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells (2018) 150 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
If you’ve read the earlier entries in the Murderbot Diaries, you know that a woman named Dr. Mensah “owns” the Murderbot but is unable to order it around because it has somehow “hacked [its] governor module and started downloading media,” now free of human control. The Murderbot now has no scruples about killing humans, so long as they’re really bad people. It feels loyalty to Dr. Mensah and is dedicated to defeating the evil company, GrayCris Corporation, that is her nemesis.
“We were talking about GrayCris here, whose company motto seems to be ‘profit by killing everybody and taking their stuff.'” So the Murderbot is on a mission to uncover evidence of the nasty things the company does. Make no mistake about it: this is a really, really bad company. But all the Murderbot wants to do is wrap up the case against GrayCris and go off into a corner somewhere to view the soap operas it’s stored by the thousands. Yes, this android richly deserves the description, “sci-fi’s favorite antisocial A.I.”
Don’t be misled. There’s nothing serious about the Murderbot Diaries. As the Murderbot muses, “Who knew being a heartless killing machine would present so many moral dilemmas? (Yes, that was sarcasm.)” There’s a lot of this sort of stuff in the book. It’s really quite funny. At times.
Now you know the essence of what’s going on in these stories. Enough said.
For further reading
See my reviews of the first two books of the Murderbot Diaries:
- All Systems Red (A reminder that technology doesn’t always work well in the future, either)
- Artificial Condition (Far away and long in the future, an augmented human designed to kill)
For more good reading, check out:
- The ultimate guide to the all-time best science fiction novels;
- Great sci-fi novels reviewed: my top 10 (plus 100 runners-up);
- Seven new science fiction authors worth reading; and
- The top 10 dystopian novels reviewed here (plus dozens of others).
And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, plus a guide to this whole site, on the Home Page.