Saturday, July 25, 2020

REVIEW: Network Effect (book) by Martha Wells

Network Effect
is the fifth work in Wells' Murderbot Diaries series, and the first full-length novel. It is science fiction.


Murderbot is still trying to figure out what it wants, so in the meantime it's working for Preservation. Its most recent job involves acting as security for a survey expedition that includes several familiar characters and a couple new ones. Although the expedition does hit a snag, it's not until everyone's on their way back to Preservation space that things go really wrong. The ship gets attacked, by another ship that Murderbot eventually realizes is ART.

Which is weird and upsetting for Murderbot, but it just gets worse from there. Something horrible has happened to ART and its crew, and it's up to Murderbot to figure everything out and somehow save itself and Amena, Mensah's teen daughter.

Story-wise, I think I prefer several of the novellas to this. I spent a good chunk of this book confused, and not always in a good way. That said, my love of the characters overshadowed pretty much everything. It was wonderful to finally get a full Murderbot novel - plenty of time and space for action, bots and constructs struggling with feelings, and character interaction.

A lot of the bot-construct interaction could be summed up like so: bots and constructs with guns built into them don't always know how to express their feelings. In Murderbot's case, feelings for soft and fragile humans are difficult enough - feelings for other bots seem impossible enough that the reality of them pretty much blindsided it. It struck me that Murderbot was a lot like a young human when it came to emotions, not always sure what it was feeling and how to express it (although, even when given some coaching, sometimes it just didn't want to express it, so there was that too).

Considering the way Amena was introduced to readers (irked at Murderbot for scaring off her secret boyfriend, who Murderbot determined was likely a threat to her), I was worried that she was going to be overly annoying, but I actually ended up liking her a lot. She and Mensah are my favorite humans in this whole series. Although she was young, she wasn't stupid, and she didn't whine or complain in situations where Murderbot had more experience. I preferred the more bot-heavy parts of the book, but her interactions with Murderbot were still really good, and I enjoyed it when she became an impromptu bot relationship counselor (although she did have a habit of putting maybe too human a spin on things, sometimes). Friendship is hard when you're a bot who's uncomfortable with your own feelings and used to not being able to trust other bots.

I have done my best to avoid spoilers, so that's all I feel like I can say. The second half of this book had some really great moments, and the ending made me very excited to read Fugitive Telemetry. It's too bad that that book's release date is still many months away.

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