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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Network Effect: A Murderbot Novel by Martha Wells

This one was slow going in the middle, but Wells provides a fantastically unique point of view, and this series is perfect science-fiction escapism.

This fifth book in Martha Wells's Murderbot series (this is the first full-length book in the set) starts off strong: it's funny and poignant and odd and wonderful, as usual. SecUnit is grumpily and charmingly obsessed with keeping its people safe and with not being touched or talked to about feelings. And it is watching a new show, MedCenter Argala (and gleaning tips about holding conversations and performing medical techniques by watching it), although The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon remains its favorite.

I hate that I'm even typing this after my gloriously high expectations, but the middle of this book was so slow for me, it was tough for me to get through. I love Murderbot, and I would have read this book even had I known this going in, but the logistics, planning, ongoing "how do we access the system" types of debates, and technological ruminations throughout the middle of the story bogged me down beyond the point where I was able to feel engaged.

Later in the book, the gems that make this series so unexpectedly poignant and funny and delightful shine yet again. SecUnit shows begrudging feelings, there are meaningful human-bot connections and surprisingly (to Murderbot, if no one else) strengthened loyalties, there is more of Wells's fantastically understated robot banter, there's action with wonderful deadpan asides from our hero, and there's some unanticipated mentoring of and by various parties that I adored reading about.

Plus, ART is back! Oh, ART! It does not act like itself for much of the book, which is with good reason but is also somewhat unsatisfying. But there's enough room for ART to show its awe-inspiring battle readiness and its tender side too--and it does some human-worthy panic cleaning (and ordering everyone to throw the mess into the recycler) before important guests arrive on the ship, which was so funny to me.

What did you think?

If you're in for another installment of Murderbot (here are my glowing reviews of the first three installments and here is my gushing take on the fourth), this one is for you. These are short books with a fantastically unique point of view, and they're perfect escapism. It was slow going there for a while, but I'm in for the next one.

This book was mentioned in my Greedy Reading List Three Wackily Different Books I'm Reading Now.


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