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159 pages, Paperback
First published May 8, 2018
“For my entire existence, at least the parts I could remember, I had done nothing but accept the inevitable. I was tired of it.”Dear Murderbot,
“I didn’t care what humans were doing to each other as long as I didn’t have to a) stop it or b) clean up after it.”Now I am halfway through what feels like one long novel of the adventures of Murderbot, the pessimistic, shy and suffering from a bit of social anxiety cyborg construct, a former SecUnit, by all laws and customs a piece of property, a tool, a menace rendered useful and safe by the means of governor module which allows for complete
“But there weren’t any depictions of SecUnits in books, either. I guess you can’t tell a story from the point of view of something that you don’t think has a point of view.”We humans have been very good throughout our messy history to deny personhood to anyone we’d rather treat as tools or things or property. No wonder the assumption here is that a rogue ‘Bot without a controlling whip of the governor module would choose to rampage and murder humans as an ‘equipment failure’. Why would a tool kill you as soon as you lose control over it? But think of that “tool” as someone whose free will you have been oppressing - and the reason for the fear makes perfect sense. Slave-owners are terrified of rebellions, after all.
“The tension that had kept me down to 96 percent capacity eased; a murderbot’s life is stressful in general, but it would be a long time before I got used to moving through human spaces with no armor, no way to hide my face.”————-
“I’m not normally afraid of things, the way humans are. I’ve been shot hundreds of times, so many times I stopped keeping count, so many times the company stopped keeping count. I’ve been chewed on by hostile fauna, run over by heavy machinery, tortured by clients for amusement, memory purged, etc., etc. But the inside of my head had been my own for +33,000 hours and I was used to it now. I wanted to keep me the way I was.”
¹ I know Murderbot is not gendered and clearly not a sexbot. However, using “it” feels like like treating him as a tool or equipment, not a person. And he just seems kinda male to me, so “he” it’s going to be.Along the way he ends up protecting (old habits die hard!) a bunch of humans who without him are destined to be worm food. Yes, we can be that illogically stupid.
“I’m used to humans wanting to do things that can get them killed. Maybe too used to it.”And he makes an unexpected friend and ally - ART, another non-human intelligence. Who shares M-Bot’s love for space soap operas. If this is not a foundation for lasting friendship, what is?
“Are all constructs so illogical? said the Asshole Research Transport with the immense processing capability whose metaphorical hand I had had to hold because it had become emotionally compromised by a fictional media serial.”————————
“I said, “Sometimes people do things to you that you can’t do anything about. You just have to survive it and go on.”5 stars.
I phrased it as a question, because pretending you were asking for more information was the best way to try to get the humans to realize they were doing something stupid. “So do you think there’s another reason Tlacey wants you to do this exchange in person, other than … killing you?”Murderbot also grows in self-awareness through its experiences. Some interactions with a ComfortUnit (the euphemism for a sexbot) lead to a deeper appreciation for the freedoms it does have, and for using one’s freedom of choice to help others in need. In particular, I loved the rather bossy transport AI ART, and ART’s determined insertion of itself into Murderbot’s life and concerns, despite Murderbot’s reluctance to allow it in. Sometimes resistance really is futile … but that’s not always a bad thing.
I said, “Sometimes people do things to you that you can't do anything about. You just have to survive it and go on.”
They all stopped talking and stared at me. It made me nervous and I immediately switched my view to the nearest security camera so I could watch us from the side. I had said it with more emphasis than I intended, but it was just the way things were. I wasn't sure why it had such an impact on them. Maybe it sounded like I knew what I was talking about. Maybe it was the two murder attempts.
In some entertainment media I had seen, the bare metal bot-bodies were used to portray the evil rogue SecUnits who menaced the main characters. Not that I was annoyed by that or anything. It was actually good, because then humans who had never worked with SecUnits expected us to look like human-form bots, and not what we actually looked like. I wasn't annoyed at all. Not one bit.
Humans should really do more research. There were operating manuals that would have warned her not to fuck with us.
“Sometimes people do things to you that you can't do anything about. You just have to survive it and go on.”
I phrased it as a question, because pretending you were asking for more information was the best way to try to get the humans to realize they were doing something stupid. “So do you think there’s another reason Tlacey wants you to do this exchange in person, other than … killing you?”
"I'm not your crew. I'm not a human. I'm a construct. Constructs and bots can't trust each other."
It was quiet for ten precious seconds, though I could tell from the spike in its feed activity it was doing something. I realized it must be searching its databases, looking for a way to refute my statement. Then it said, Why not?
I had spent so much time pretending to be patient with humans asking stupid questions. I should have more self-control than this. "Because we both have to follow human orders. A human could tell you to purge my memory. A human could tell me to destroy your systems."
I thought it would argue that I couldn't possibly hurt it, which would derail the whole conversation.
But it said, There are no humans here now.
I realized I had been trapped into this conversational dead end, with the transport pretending to need this explained in order to get me to articulate it to myself. I didn't know who I was more annoyed at, myself or it. No, I was definitely more annoyed at it.
fear was an artificial condition. It's imposed from the outside. So it's possible to fight it. You should do the things you're afraid of.It's amazing what crap we come up with to convince ourselves to do something brave. Or, according to Murderbot, stupid.
“ART said, What does it want?
To kill all the humans, I answered.
I could feel ART metaphorically clutch its function. If there were no humans, there would be no crew to protect and no reason to do research and fill its databases. It said, That is irrational.
I know, I said, if the humans were dead, who would make the media? It was so outrageous, it sounded like something a human would say.”
"Sometimes people do things to you that you can't do anything about. You just have to survive it and go on.”
I was trying to isolate why I felt so uneasy. Trapped in a small enclosed space with humans, check. Missing my drones, check. My Giant Asshole Research Transport too busy to complain at, check. Needed to actually focus on what I was doing so couldn’t watch media, check.
Interacting meant talking, and eye contact. I could already feel my performance capacity dropping.
It will be simple, ART insisted. I’ll assist you.
Yes, the giant transport bot is going to help the construct SecUnit pretend to be human. This will go well.
You may have noticed that for a terrifying murderbot I fuck up a lot.
2019 Hugo Award Finalists
2018 Nebula Award Finalists