REVIEW: Rogue Protocol -The Murderbot Diaries Series, Book 3 by Martha Wells
Martha Wells’ Rogue Protocol is the third in the Murderbot Diaries series, starring a human-like android who keeps getting sucked back into adventure after adventure, though it just wants to be left alone, away from humanity and small talk.
Who knew being a heartless killing machine would present so many moral dilemmas?
Sci-fi’s favorite antisocial A.I. is back on a mission. The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah’s SecUnit is.
And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.
Dear Ms. Wells,
Yes, my finger was poised Tuesday to download episode three of the Murderbot Diaries. Where else would it have been and what else would I have been doing? Murderbot is back, sucked into another “save the humans against my will” mission but this time it’s faced by things that make it think “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit” and then “ow.”
Having found out what actually happened on the mining moon where things had gone to hell and it had been blamed – and also thought it was to blame – for the deaths of lots of humans, Murderbot is on the move again. Having inexplicably told the bot of the latest cargo/passenger transport ship that it’s traveling on that it is a security consultant, Murderbot spends the (seemingly endless) cycles of the trip keeping the humans from fighting and bashing each other. It does get to yell at everyone to “Shut up!” – something it was never allowed to do as a SecUnit – but that’s hardly enough to balance having to listen to all the squabbles. Plus that cuts into its time to watch its entertainment media.
(If it wasn’t for the shows I download from the entertainment feed, I would have thought the only way most humans knew how to communicate was by pointing and shouting.)
Laying low to avoid too much attention, Murderbot then works out a way to transit to the next place it needs to go. Scanning news feed, it sees that Dr. Menash is being asked increasingly pointed questions about what happened with the soulless, only out for profit GrayCris Corp and the investigation of the attack on DeltFall which Murderbot is worried will lead to questions about one missing rogue SecUnit. Can’t have that. There’s something fishy going on at an abandoned terraforming project which Murderbot is sure has GrayCris’s name all over it. Yeah, that’s its “surprise face.”
To get to Milu, Murderbot has to stash itself on another transport, one with two human security agents who are to be attached to a survey crew. Oh, nothing could go wrong there. Yes, attach however much sarcasm you want to that statement. To access the transport everyone is taking to Milu though, Murderbot will have to make nice with a pet bot owned by one of the survey team. Miki is perky enough to make Murderbot’s eyes roll. Thankfully Murderbot doesn’t have a stomach or eat or it would vomit at Miki’s friendly enthusiasm.
It doesn’t take long once the shuttle carrying the team and security agents reaches the planet before all hell breaks loose. But that seems to happen a lot whenever GrayCris is involved and Murderbot just knows they’re behind this. Can it save another set of annoying humans and a bubbly bot plus itself from things that can rip it apart as easily as Murderbot can shred humans?
Over the course of the story, Murderbot discovers just how much it misses ART. Sure ART sometimes needed its “hand” held during emotional and tragic episodes of Sanctuary Moon, but ART was a great backup. As it is, Murderbot will have to “invent on the fly” aka lie its ass off to get to Milu then improvise like mad to keep from being destroyed (it doesn’t have access anymore to a MedSystem to put it back together again). Despite Murderbot’s nausea at Miki’s naiveté and calling Don Abene its friend, there are times when Murderbot needs a moment to deal with some intense emotion. No, don’t call it jealousy.
The shit goes down in this story with plenty of Murderbot sarcastically doing its (intelligent and often violent) thing. Good thing it never dumped a few important files it downloaded (ahem) from clients over the years in order to store more media and that when needed, it can pull some dialog and audio from its vast storage files of Sanctuary Moon. It’s also the bomb at juggling feeds and reacting quickly unlike some human security agents.
(When I said I didn’t like humans working security you thought I was just being an asshole, right?)
It also gets exposed to another load of human emotions and – oh hell no, it couldn’t be – bot emotions. Had Miki really been designed to be that pet like, that child like or had its code changed in response to how it was treated? Miki even puts the bot equivalent of emoticons in its feed.
Or Miki was a bot who had never been abused or lied to or treated with anything but indulgent kindness. It really thought its humans were its friends, because that’s how they treated it.
I signaled Miki I would be withdrawing for one minute. I needed to have an emotion in private.
And this is what I think the main takeaway here is – that Murderbot continues to evolve emotionally. After it finds a memory clip with some interesting information, it makes a decision and ponders the relationship between Miki and Abene.
“I hate caring about stuff. But apparently once you start, you can‘t just stop.“
Oh, there’s a pronoun used by others about Murderbot. Very interesting. And the nod to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” had me literally laughing out loud. That alone is priceless. A-