Friday, May 14, 2021

Network Effect

Martha Wells
Completed 5/14/2021, Reviewed 5/14/2021
4 stars

At last, the Murderbot Novel.  My expectations were pretty high.  I think I was hoping for a five-star reaction to it, but ended up feeling the same way as I did about the previous four novellas.  I liked it a lot.  The beginning of the book felt like the beginning of one of the novellas.  Then towards the middle, it actually slowed down a bit, more so than any of the novellas did.  Then it got intense at the end.  All in all, a really good book.  It’s been nominated for several awards including the Nebula and the Hugo.  It might just win one of those, as Murderbot seems to have a huge fan base.  I haven’t read all the books for either award yet, so the jury is still out for me.

In this book, Murderbot is asked to accompany an archeological expedition for the organization that Dr. Mensah was head of.  Her daughter Amena is part of the crew.  On the way there, they are attacked by another ship and boarded by strange, grey faced humans.  Some of the crew escapes, but Murderbot and Amena don’t.  They are taken aboard the invading ship which turns out to be ART from Artificial Condition.  Its AI seems to have been taken over by something else.  Murderbot’s mission turns into saving ART from the greys and finding its original crew, protecting Amena, and finding his own crew.

One of the best things about this series is that Murderbot is an excellent character.  It continues to grow over the course of the series, including in this book.  It doesn’t admit to having feelings, but it definitely does, once you weed through all the sarcasm and anti-social behavior.  I was impressed that its first-person narration still seemed fresh and fun, while advancing Murderbot’s character development.  I think I giggled a lot more at Murderbot’s quips in this book than in the novellas.  Not quite sure why because the dry humor was the same.  

As with all the other novellas, the other characters are well-developed.  In this book Amena is the most prominent secondary character.  She’s a teenager who gets in some trouble at the beginning of the book with Murderbot getting her out of it.  So she thinks it hates her.  It makes her interesting and provides her with a good character arc.

I did feel the pacing really slowed down in the middle of the book though.  I wasn’t driven to read it quickly as I was the riveting opening and ending.  It sort of felt like Wells was forcing it to be novel length rather than novella length.  Or maybe I was just so used to the books being fast-paced throughout that the middle felt like it dragged a bit.

I give this book a solid four stars out of five.  It’s very exciting and entertaining with the same hard science feel.  I just wished it would have grabbed me more emotionally.  That’s what’s missing from giving this book a five-star rating.  Wells has recently signed a contract for more novellas so there are more stories coming.  The sixth book, another novella, is already out there.  It will be interesting to see where she goes with new stories, and with Murderbot’s development into a person.  

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