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The Murderbot Diaries #2

Artificial Condition

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It has a dark past – one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself “Murderbot”.

But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more.

Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue.

What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…

159 pages, Paperback

First published May 8, 2018

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About the author

Martha Wells

90 books14.7k followers
Martha Wells has been a science fiction and fantasy author since her first fantasy novel was published in 1993. Her New York Times Bestselling series The Murderbot Diaries has won Nebula Awards, Hugo Awards, Locus Awards, and an American Library Association/YALSA Alex Award. Her work also includes The Books of the Raksura series, the Ile-Rien series, and several other fantasy novels, most recently Witch King (Tordotcom, 2023), as well as short fiction, non-fiction, and media tie-ins for Star Wars, Stargate: Atlantis, and Magic: The Gathering. Her work has also appeared on the Philip K. Dick Award ballot, the British Science Fiction Association Award ballot, the USA Today Bestseller List, and has been translated into twenty-four languages.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,984 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,537 reviews7,879 followers
April 22, 2023
"I was stalling. I would have to interact with humans as an augmented human... I had imagined it as taking place from a distance, or in the spaces of a crowded transit ring. Interacting meant talking, and eye contact. I could already feel my performance capacity dropping."

It was with anticipation of pleasure that I picked up the second installment in the Murderbot series. After its thrilling adventures on its last expedition as a SecUnit, I was curious to see what 'Bot would do with freedom. I read quickly, finishing in one sitting. Though the beginning felt a bit awkward, I remained confident that Wells would end up somewhere interesting. It was an enjoyable read, but suffered from a few issues.

Why not five stars, you wonder? I do enjoy the character of Murderbot a great deal, but found myself with some sticky points on my first read-through.

One, I felt Murderbot had become more colloquial in its speech without accompanying change in comfort level with others. Calling A.R.T. an 'asshole,' for instance, seemed odd. Funny, no doubt. But would the apathetic Murderbot really have named a mildly intrusive artificial intelligence it just met an 'asshole?' It set the wrong tone and in some ways, the character of Murderbot backslid to be a socially inept human, not a killing machine trying to create behavior patterns.

Two, I thought the narrative confusing at first. I'm quite used to Well's elaborate world-building, but this felt awkward. On re-read, I decided it was smoother than I had thought the first time through. I remain extremely puzzled as to the differences between 'constructs,' 'artificial intelligences,' and ''bots' in Murderbot's world and why humans created 'constructs' as they did. At one point 'Bot notes that "the long sleeves of the T-shirt and jacket, the pants and the boots covering all my inorganic parts," which seemed especially weird to me. Why leave human hands on a construct? I also remained puzzled by lines such as "I huddled in the chair." Hello, Killing Machine? Why on earth do you have any hormones responsible for fear? I feel like Wells would have done better to stick with a Star Trek TNG 'Data' type model.

Three, the plot was good, but uneven. Murderbot wants to see the scene of its alleged murders. It will need a pretext to get there, so it signs on with a group of naive workers hoping to regain some stolen data. This premise works at first until the workers, a family with young children, behave in incredibly naive and stupid ways, leading Murderbot to behave in naive and stupid ways. The long journey to the scene of the crime ends up being anticlimactic

To be fair, my rating might also be a case of high expectations; certainly it is much better than many 3-star books that I've read, enjoyed, and promptly forgot (basically every generic cop-thriller). I love much of what Martha Wells has done, and have a number of her books shelved in hardcover. Since I can still remember many of the details of Artificial Condition without picking up the book, it's good enough to make an impression. There's lots of humor and sarcasm, some sweet computer bonding and quite a bit of action. Definitely worth reading.

Thanks to all the friends and commenters who helped me clarify my thoughts!

November 2022: I think it's 5 stars. Although these are all novellas, the character growth really stands out when I read them back to back. 'Bot getting to explore independence and humanity is the best.

Love the 'Bot and want to join a re/read? Discuss the upcoming release? Nataliya and I lead a group:
Profile Image for Nataliya.
745 reviews11.9k followers
April 18, 2021
2021 re-read # 567993: I love these books so much. Murderbot and ART are the dream team.
2020 read # 1:
“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,

If I promise that we can spend quality time just sitting quietly together, me reading and you watching your space soap operas, and I won’t be bugging you much, can we please be friends?
“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 torture control (and currently nonfunctional, in case you cared) - and, despite what M-Bot wants you to think, clearly a person.

Because being human and being a person are completely different concepts.
“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.

And so M-Bot needs to stay disguised in order to survive.
“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.”
This story follows our newly sorta-free Murderbot on his¹ quest to get to the bottom of the events that happened 35K hours ago when he supposedly murdered quite a few of his human charges. It requires him trying to pass as a human, regardless of how painful and awkward it is for him. And leads to uncovering what I assume will be the plot of the remaining two novellas.
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 loved this story just as much as I loved its predecessor. It’s just as strong and engaging - in writing and characterization and humor. But while the first installment could have worked well as a stand-alone piece, this one makes it clear that there is more story to come. And I plan to read it all.
“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.


My review of the first novella, “All Systems Red” is here.
My review of the third one, “Rogue Protocol”, is here.
My review of the fourth one, “Exit Strategy”, is here.
My review of the fifth story (and the first full-length novel), “Network Effect”, is here.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
April 28, 2020
All the stars! ART the spaceship transport AI is not to be missed. An awesome sequel to the Nebula award-winning “All Systems Red.” I liked it even better than the first book, and this one was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

The illicit adventures of Murderbot continue in Artificial Condition, the terrific sequel to Martha Wells’ 2017 Nebula award-winning novella, All Systems Red. Murderbot, a deeply introverted cyborg security unit, or SecUnit, who previously hacked the governor software that forced obedience to human commands, has illegally gone off the grid, eschewing the safety of a mostly-free life with a sympathetic owner in order to travel on its own. Disguising itself as an augmented human, Murderbot takes off for the mining facility space station where, it understands, it once murdered a group of humans that it was charged with protecting, though its memory of the event has been mostly erased. (Hence the name Murderbot that it has given itself.)

To get to the mining station, Murderbot hitches a ride with an empty cargo transport, offering to share the many hours of media and entertainment that it has accumulated. But the transport AI turns out to be far more powerful and intelligent than Murderbot had anticipated ― a dangerous situation for Murderbot, who’s in a highly vulnerable position. The transport AI, which Murderbot calls ART (short for Asshole Research Transport), is looking for more than just entertainment media. It actually wants to understand and help Murderbot with its quest.

Once they gets to their destination, at ART’s suggestion, Murderbot (still in disguise as a human) takes a contract as a security guard for a technologist group of humans who are planning to travel to the same area of the station as the installation where the deadly incident in Murderbot’s past occurred. This gives Murderbot a convenient excuse for being in this isolated area, and it intends to use its spare time to investigate the incident, which has been hidden from the public. But, as in All Systems Red, Murderbot finds that when others need its help and expertise, it’s hard to remain emotionally disengaged.

Artificial Condition was, for me, an even more entertaining story and mystery than All Systems Red. I found the plot fresher overall, with its interweaving of the treacherous plotting surrounding the technologist group that Murderbot is protecting, and Murderbot’s investigation of the disaster in its own past. In the process of discovering more about its prior life, Murderbot also discovers more about itself, and there are hints of some possible connections between the past incident and the current one, in addition to some thematic ties.

The human characters were diverse and fairly well-drawn, but the characters that really engaged me were the artificial intelligences. Murderbot continues to develop depth as a character, and its snark (often about the idiocies of humans) adds an enjoyable dose of humor to the story.
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.

The third novella in the MURDERBOT DIARIES series, Rogue Protocol, is due to be published in August 2018. I’m anxious to see where Murderbot’s journey takes us next.

I received a free copy of this ebook from Tor for review. Thanks so much!

Content note: scattered F-bombs.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
February 22, 2019
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.

I honestly am on the four-hundred-reviews-to-come portion of my evening, so this will be a bit briefer. First of all, sci-fi novella. Second of all, I already reviewed book one in depth.

Here's a quick bulleted list of things I liked about this volume:
➽A lot more worldbuilding. We see Murderbot go beyond just one singular arena and really see a lot more of the world. I also just liked seeing everything; in the first book I really didn't perceive the world, and here I did.
➽There’s a character introduced who uses gender neutral pronouns (!)
➽Murderbot's first crew is missing in this book, but the new characters are super interesting as well - a pissed-off transport operative [ART] is my definite favorite.

But here's the REAL kicker: I just love Murderbot more and more each volume as it continues to explore its humanity.
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.

The way in which Murderbot is treated by society as a whole is kind of one of the main functions of the world, and I really enjoy it. It's a really interesting character to me because its thought processes echo that of a very traumatized and somewhat emotionally locked off human. It gets the most depth, the most narrative sympathy, and some of the best development I've ever seen. I love how it keeps denying having any feelings and I love it.

On a sort of related note, I totally love that Murderbot is humanized via caring about people in the non-romantic way. Robots-Becomes-Human-Because-It-Feels-Romantic-Love is a really overdone and, if thought about critically, totally fucked up trope; I'm really loving the subversion of this. On a related note, I'm loving that Martha Wells didn't give the robots gender. That shouldn't be a huge statement, but damn, this is the era that gave us alien robots with ponytails.

Anyway, summary: it’s as if Martha Wells knows Exactly what I like in literature and plans to use that knowledge. For evil. And for an excellent novella series that I can’t see myself putting down anytime soon.

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Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,114 reviews2,808 followers
December 21, 2021
Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2)
by Martha Wells, Kevin R. Free (Narrator)

2021 Hugo Award for best series: The Murderbot Diaries

Murderbot is on the move. Before it will even consider making contact again with the person who bought its contract it needs to know what happened in its past. Years ago, it seems that MB may have killed over fifty mine workers. Glitches happen and that would be a really bad one to have on one's record. MB doesn't mind the dark stain on its record but it doesn't want to be around people if it's likely to glitch like that again. So off MB goes to investigate the scene of the slaughter so it can get an understanding if it was really responsible for what happened or if someone was controlling its actions.

MB bribes its way on the first transport ship by letting the ship bot download all its media. Then MB settled in and binge watched its favorite serials while the bot ship did the same and left MB alone. But on the second transport ship, the ship bot, ART, is highly intelligent, chatty, bossy, and almost like a friend that MB never wanted and can't shake. ART even insists on watching programs through MB's feed and then MB has to deal with ART getting upset when characters in the programs die.

MB is not liking the sensation of emotions. It doesn't want anyone to talk to it about "feelings". No touching, either! It doesn't want to care about anyone or anything. But it's obvious that MB is changing now that it doesn't belong to the company that leased it out as a tool to humans. Now that it has choices and options, it's starting to feel and care just a little bit and that's not something MB likes. As usual, MB snarks its way through the story, resisting connections and friends but making them anyway.

Published May 8th 2018 by Recorded Books
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
531 reviews58.6k followers
July 15, 2018
The good news is that I still love Murderbot and that I now also love ART.

The bad news is that I unfortunately didn't like this book as much as the first one. I couldn't get into the story until half way through it.

I still very much look forward to reading the next awkward adventures of Murderbot though!
Profile Image for Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews.
235 reviews3,113 followers
March 23, 2022
4.5 stars. Even better than the first one -- this book pumps up the sarcastic action

I really liked the first Murderbot Diaries book, but this one took it to another level and is one of the better short stories I have ever read.

This entry is more exciting, funnier, has better characters, and better dialogue and delivers on pretty much every front. I especially appreciate the appearance of another non-human who has just as much personality as Murderbot does, and their dialogue is the best part of this book.

I was worried that this book would follow the same successful format of the first book and keep all the same characters, and was pleasantly surprised that we got a totally original stories with (outside of Murderbot) a brand new cast.

I don't know if I will ever give a short story 5 stars, as they just can't compete with longer epics in my opinion -- but dang does this book get close!

The biggest knock I have on this book is the price tag. This book is far too short to justify a $11 price for kindle, and a $15 price for the physical book. All of the Murderbot Diaries combined are about the length of one large book, and if you paid the full price for all of them it would cost you $90 (or $66 on kindle). That's absurd. Try to get this book at your local library if available, and if it's not I would recommend that you request your library order it.

Check out my youtube channel
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
April 30, 2021
Humans should really do more research. There were operating manuals that would have warned her not to fuck with us.

All Systems Red lit the fuse, this one exploded. i am now fully on team murderbot.

murrrrrderbotttt—saving pesky humans from their foolhardiness, giving sexbots some dang agency, and dispensing hard-won life lessons along the way:

“Sometimes people do things to you that you can't do anything about. You just have to survive it and go on.”

it's exhausting being a murderbot on the lam—pulling an irish goodbye on the crew from their last job and trying to pass for (augmented) human long enough to return to the place where a routine job went horribly wrong and they became murderbot, seeking answers about whether or not they were culpable, and if they could be a danger to others—which is, it must be said, a pretty human concern for a murderbot. it's a very stressful situation, and requires plenty of self-soothing with entertainment feeds, the murderbot equivalent of 'netflix and chill'—a method of self-soothing THIS (unaugmented) human lady did plenty of during The Great Lockdown of 2020.

but on the way to the scene of the incident, murderbot makes a FRIEND! ART is the transport's snarky AI, and their buddy-watching of shows—and their varying reactions to them—was a slick way for wells to flesh out their respective characters. i particularly enjoyed murderbot's love of the programs despite the lack of SecUnit representation, or their misrepresentation—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, and i'm glad they're getting the chance to correct that wrong through these delightful books; telling the story of exhausting humans, sarcastic transport bots, and all the emotional discomfort of being a rogue murderbot in the world.

it's funny and charming and unexpectedly warm, as murderbot, with their newly-acquired free will, begins developing their own value system—choosing to help their new human acquaintances get out of the dangerous situations they've blundered themselves into, although not without some impatient grumbles and eyerolling grouchiness.

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?”

it is subtly adorable that this condescending jab is an echo of one of murderbot's first interactions with ART:

"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.

m-bot has learned how to pay that shit forward, and i'm eager to see what comes next.


what better way to celebrate the release day of murderbot #6 than to...read murderbot #2?

imma catch up to all of you murderbots someday!!

review to come!!

come to my blog!!
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,538 reviews9,831 followers
March 18, 2022
In Artificial Condition, the second installment of The Murderbot Diaries, we reunite with everyone's favorite antisocial SecUnit, Murderbot.

As you may recall from All Systems Red, Murderbot has no memory of its past and is curious about a particular incident at a mining facility which left a lot of humans dead.

With only vague recollections, it has a strong desire to know more and how it may have been involved.

Recently setting out on its own, with no ties to any human, it now has the time to look for answers.

Making a new acquaintance, an AI, who it calls ART, the two, when not binging media together, set to work preparing Murderbot for the next steps of its mission.

Murderbot alters itself a bit, in order to pass as a human, and accepts an assignment as a Security Consultant. Its new clients are a group of computer scientists, who had their work stolen from them by a previous employer.

They want to negotiate to get it back. This assignment will take Murderbot exactly where it wants to go.

Yet again, it struggles with, dare I say, emotions where its human charges are concerned. It is the most soft-hearted Security Unit in all the galaxy; although it can definitely slay when it needs to.

There's corruption, there's evil entities, there's action, there's humor and whole lot of heart.

I adored the interactions between Murderbot and ART. Just the sweetest moments.

If I wasn't so terribly frightened of the possibilities for AI, I would want one myself.

Overall, this was a highly entertaining novella and I cannot wait to carry on with this series.

Martha Wells has an incredible style and I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a fun, fast-paced Science Fiction series!!

Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,976 followers
May 6, 2018
These Murderbot Diaries are quickly becoming a go-to popcorn SF read for me. I love killer robots as much as the next bloke, but I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for this one.

It's not just the hundreds of hours this mass-murder-capable robot pours into his/her SF soap opera binge-watching time. It's not the kinds of situations that make it need to pretend to be human among all the myriad prejudices AGAINST mass-murder-capable robots.

It's the candid conversations with pissed-off robot carriers.

I kinda agree with these two. Murdering all the humans would truly make their lives much simpler. But then again, I suppose that could be said about all of us.

Good worldbuilding! I'm really flying through each one of these like it was popcorn. :)
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
857 reviews5,909 followers
May 4, 2023
Sometimes people do things to you that you can't do anything about. You just have to survive it and go on.

The snarky, social-anxiety ridden robot with a lot of heart is back in Artificial Condition, Martha Wells second installment in the Murderbot Diaries and if the first book opened the door to this fun and ferocious world, this one pulled me in and ensured I’d be here to stay a long time rooting for Murderbot. Set directly after All Systems Red, we find Murderbot struggling with finding a purpose and having some unanswered questions about their past which launches a new chapter of [cue dramatic action music] mayhem and murderin’! Okay, more like protecting, and begrudgingly so, because for as brutal of an asskicking Murderbot can deliver they mostly just want to ‘sink into my media downloads for a while and pretend I didn't exist.’ With a new set of characters, and a research AI named ART (dubbed the Asshole Research Transport by MBot) that I absolutely adore, Artificial Condition is a smart, savvy sci-fi good time that expands Wells’ imaginative world and raises the stakes even higher. It is a blast.

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.

What is so immediately endearing about this series is the way Wells uses a rogue robot to explore what it means to be human. In this second “episode” being human means looking the part as much as acting, and Murderbot does some rather insightful thinking about how our feelings and thoughts are reflected in our movements. Also how they look, which they’ll have to alter—much to their horror. The lines between AI robot and human blur even more in this book with the steps Murderbot takes causing some anxiety and existential ponderings because they make it ‘harder for me to pretend I was not a person.’ Which is a great moment that flips most freewill-AI sci fi stories on their head as MB finds being a person and having to talk about feelings and do all that people-y stuff to be…well, horrifying.

There is also a great moment about representation, with Murderbot acknowledging they prefer more unrealistic media shows but also noticing how poorly security units come across in all these shows. ‘You can't tell a story from the point of view of something that you don't think has a point of view,’ they consider. However, ART and Murderbot watching shows together with Mbot annoyed as hell at ART and ART having…well, AI existential breakdowns when the shows get sad—THIS is the sort of thing that I’ll keep coming back for. As Murderbot says ‘They made us smarter. The anxiety and depression were side effects.’ The student told you are “gifted” to being burned out, depressed and directionless pipeline is real, I’ve lived it, and my oh my does this series nudge those feelings. These robots grappling with feelings as well as struggling with realizing they feel feelings is brilliantly delivered and moving. Just a completely empathetic book series and I don’t just mean empathizing with being annoyed you have to stop watching your show and do work.

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.

Trust and fear become a major theme in this episode. Murderbot has freedom, but what does that even mean? And how does one accept independence when following orders was all you knew? When Murderbot is ‘97 percent certain this meeting was a trap,’ should they dispute clients or follow along and protect? In examining what it means to be human, logic often gives way. Is it fear, bravery, stupidity? Ultimately we ask what makes humans…well, human.

Murderbot can seriously kick ass and so does this series. I’m interested to see how the side plot of discovering their past is going to continue to play out and I loved how much of this book was about respecting and giving agency to the sex bots. I’m fully on board at this point, can we get Murderbot t-shirts? Also thanks to Nataliya and her amazing reviews, I’ve decided to listen to these on audio and she is correct: Kevin R. Free IS the voice of Murderbot, I will accept no others.


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.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
April 23, 2020
”When constructs were first developed, they were originally supposed to have a pre-sentient level of intelligence, like the dumber variety of bot. But you can’t put something as dumb as a hauler bot in charge of security for anything without spending even more money for expensive company-employed human supervisors. So they made us smarter. The anxiety and depression were side effects.”

 photo 890aadb8-fa03-4631-bb47-8492e54b63fb_zpsavnuscd2.png

The SecUnit, the hero of our continuing saga, has enough intelligence to start to suffer from a mild form of chronic depression, only waiting for a half dozen more things to go wrong before he/she becomes full blown, 24/7 depressed. Humans don’t help. They are irrational creatures and are constantly making decisions that, frankly, are bordering on suicidal. The SecUnit’s job is to keep them alive.

Thank goodness for Sanctuary Moon.

Since a SecUnit does not have to sleep, he/she can binge watch TV shows for all those hours that humans are sleeping. I have several friends who wish they could bypass the whole sleep thing to continue binging 1990s sitcoms until blood starts seeping out of their eyeballs. Whenever SecUnit feels depressed or too anxious, he/she can always access the feed and watch some episodes of his/her favorite space opera, Sanctuary Moon.

SecUnit needs to get to HaviHyral so he/she can investigation what exactly happened to him/her when he/she went berserk and killed a bunch of humans and destroyed a few bots, as well. He/she became at that moment, in his/her mind, Murderbot. His/her memory has been wiped, but his/her organic memory retains vestiges of what happened. When he/she breaks his/her governing unit, which allows humans to control him/her, which frankly doesn’t go so well with all that carnage and murder, he/she becomes a free agent. (All of that will be made clear when you read the first book in the series, All Systems Red.) To get to HaviHyral, he has to have a work contract with a human.

Murderbot makes “friends” with a transport pod known as ART (______ Research Transport). You’ll have to read the book to find out what the A stands for. Fortunately, ART is able to provide help and assistance, as if Murderbot was still tied into the security system as a legally operating SecUnit. Murderbot needs all the help he/she can get keeping these naive human clients alive.

After some alterations to his/her physiology so that he/she can pass as an augmented human, he/she looks in the mirror and thinks: ”It would make it harder for me to pretend not to be a person.” Depressing thought. ART offers to attach gender parts, which Murderbot emphatically rejects. It would have made writing this review easier if he/she had declared a gender (Martha Wells sidesteps this issue by writing in the first person), but part of the interesting things about this series is how readers react to Murderbot. Some see him/her as a she, and some see her/him as a he. We are coded to assign gender. I could refer to Murderbot as it, but for some reason that just seems wrong to me. Toasters are its. Lawn mowers are its. He/she might be a better version of human than what humans seem to be capable of.

There are two more episodes (a nod I’m giving to Sanctuary Moon) in this extremely entertaining series. I have them already in hand and certainly must see where Murderbot’s investigation takes him/her, and see how he/she handles becoming more and more human.

He/she has even experienced enough that he/she can now offer wise advice to his clients. ”Sometimes people do things to you that you can’t do anything about. You just have to survive it and go.”

Highly Recommended!

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Profile Image for mwana .
371 reviews207 followers
October 9, 2022
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.


We carry on from where we left off in All Systems Red. Murderbot has abandoned its humans and decided to go, well, rogue. It's on a quest to figure out what happened to it before the events of the first book, or find a safe, secure, isolated location to continue rewatching Sanctuary Moon. Murderbot's comfort TV show, my image on the newsburst had rattled me and I wanted to just sink into my media downloads for a while and pretend I didn't exist. Mine is currently The Mentalist.

It makes its way across various hubs and finally settles on a ship that suffers from an overabundance of personality. ART is the best thing to happen to this series since Murderbot. When it first met Murderbot, it freaked him the fuck out. ART told it, You're a rogue SecUnit, a bot/human construct, with a scrambled governor module... Murderbot didn't care much for ART. It was a super advanced ship that had about as much sentient capacity as Murderbot itself. How the hell was I supposed to know there were transports sentient enough to be mean? But soon after, ART endeared itself to Murderbot after it was unable to handle character deaths. Same sis. Same.

ART then offers to help Murderbot change its appearance for it to safely continue its quest to uncover what happened to it. Why does it have a scrambled governor module? Why the event that happened took place? To do that, it needed to band together with another group of humans who were hellbent on self-destruction and had never heard of self-preservation. Or binge watching TV shows.

Murderbot carries out its adventure with the same snark, pessimism and pragmatism that we know and love it for. However, it seemed to sway from the vision I had of it of stoic robot who'd rather be left alone. See, its not one-dimensional. Murderbot...cares. If the humans were dead, who would make the media. Its a bot who would do anything to preserve its free will at any cost but it still cares for its fellow man, bot and whatever else was in between.

There's a philosophy to be discussed here about sentience and the self. The humans who made these constructs need them to be absolutely devoted to them. But what makes Murderbot even more human is its aversion to human contact, social anxiety and generalised anxiety. At one point, when it was suffering what could be considered a bout of PTSD about what happened before, ART plays it the soundtrack to Sanctuary Moon to help it relax.

I couldn't begin to express how much I love this "rogue" SecUnit who is considered a threat because it gained autonomy. The oppressive humans who "granted" the constructs all that they know, see this independence and intelligence outside their control as a threat to be extinguished. It makes me think of humans who have evolved enough to leave institutions that thrive on indoctrination. Religions, schools, "lifestyles"... When you set out to be apart from the status quo, you become a dangerous to the way of life. Institutions that thrive on predatory control of a group of people to ensure their stay in power do everything they can to eliminate the "threat". But Murderbot isn't here to start a revolution. Perhaps it does in future books. But all it wants is to be free. And it can't do that just yet. But as it continues to make friends along the way maybe it can finally be the chemical X that abolishes this shit pile of a life.

However, priorities, I had five episodes of different drama series, two comedies, a book about the history of exploration of alien remnants in the Corporation Rim, and a multipart art competition from Belal Tertiary Eleven queued and paused... but I was actually watching episode 206 of Sanctuary Moon, which I'd already seen twenty-seven times. This collection of media won't watch itself. The revolution--if it is coming--will have to wait.
Profile Image for Kevin Kuhn.
Author 2 books566 followers
May 3, 2020
This is novella two in the Muderbot Diaries. I enjoyed it just as much as the first novella. Once again, the strength of the story comes from the characterizations of non-humans. The story itself, almost feels like a side question. After the events of the first book, Muderbot wants to return to the scene of a human massacre that it may have played a role in. However, in order to gain access to the surface, Murderbot signs on with a group that has their own challenges and conflict. In it’s introverted manner, it can’t help but feel sorry and responsible for a fairly pitiful group of humans that are in a nearly no-win situation.

My favorite part of this story is the introduction of ART, a sentient transport bot, built to pilot and control a space transport ship. While it’s vast intelligence initially scares Murderbot, the two quickly fall into together. ART reminds me a bit of Marvin, the manically depressed robot in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. However, ART is less depressed, but just as bored as Marvin. There is no doubt that the charm of this entire series is the humanization of non-humans in the form (so far) of Murderbot and ART. It’s their unusual character traits (introverted, jaded, and loads of snark) that make the series so fun.

It’s a complete story and does tie-in to the first story in several ways, even if it feels like a side-quest. I sure hope we see more of ART in next few novellas! Another entertaining and fun novella with characters that are more human than humans! Four and half stars for book two of the Murderbot Diaries.
Profile Image for David Putnam.
Author 16 books1,517 followers
September 18, 2020
Artificial Condition Sept. 2020
I really love this series, this the second book I’ve read. There is something about the murderbot who loves watching space operas in its spare time that is intriguing. The voice of the murderbot is always consistent and the writing craft is excellent. This book started off a little slow. The conflict wasn’t set until page 37 and during the 37 pages there is very little forward motion in the story. But once I got over that hump the story really took off. The plot reminds of some of the best action books by Mark Greany, and Kyle Mills. Maybe even a little of Jack Reacher. The murderbot keeps the reader updated on everything that is happening in clean concise prose. I’m moving on to the next book. I highly recommend this one for readers of well written Sci-fi.
David Putnam author of The Bruno Johnson series.
Profile Image for CC.
79 reviews53 followers
December 31, 2022
3.5 stars. A charming little book to end 2022 with.

Murderbot picks up its adventure right after the end of All Systems Red. It makes a new friend--a spaceship bot who I guiltily love even more than murderbot--and they spend quality time watching soap opera together. It finds new human clients--a group of teenagers who have no idea of its real identity--and it creates numerous hilarious moments while trying to pretend to be an augmented human around them.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the book, especially the interaction between murderbot and the shuttle bot ART. ART has this smartass "personality" that probably would've come off obnoxious if it were a human, but being the all-powerful spaceship it is, it actually sounds so innocently cute. The second half, however, after the group reached its destination planet and got to the real "task", became a bit boring for me, and I found the sideplot of murderbot investigating its past slightly jarring. It belonged too obviously to a larger arc in a series and didn't seem to fit in this particular story very well.

Judging from friend reviews, it appears that I'm in the extreme minority for not enjoying this installment as much as the previous one. Which is probably a result of me relating too much to the socially awkward murderbot full of snarky monologues in the first book. This time, murderbot is (unwillingly) starting to become more "human", and its snarkiness also dwindled quite considerably in the later parts of the book. I'm hoping that's not a general direction that the series is trying to shift to ... Because while I still liked this short read, it's not getting me as excited about the sequels as the first book did.

Note on audiobook: I listened to most of this on audio and found it hard to get used to at first. As mentioned in this discussion, murderbot sounded "female" to me when I read All Systems Red in print, so I struggled with the narrator's male voice. I also thought that the sarcasm in murderbot's monologues didn't come out as well in audio. But towards the end of the book I somehow managed to balance my "female inner voice" with the "male audio voice", and the result turned out strangely more ... agender? It was weird but I ended up preferring the audiobook to print!
Profile Image for Lex Kent.
1,682 reviews8,716 followers
July 15, 2021
4.25 Stars. I just love this series! This is only my third Murderbot story, including the prequel, and I'm completely hooked already. I needed a little pallet cleanser away from the books I've been reading -ARC's- and this was a perfect chocie since it was a quick but very good read. The badass murderbot with a heart of gold, although Murderbot would never admit it, is a character that is so easy to like. Add in the first appearance of ART, and this a fun read. It is so tempting to read the next book now, I already purchased it, but I don't want to go to fast but instead I want to savor this series. But I will tell you it is sure hard to resist. If you are a sci-fi fan, this series is a must. If you don't care for sci-fi but like adventure stories with a good main character, then this would be for you too. The prequel short is free to read online so it's a great way to try this series out.
Profile Image for Lois Bujold.
Author 185 books37.7k followers
August 28, 2019
As I was advised, a most excellent continuation and further adventure of fellow trufan Murderbot, following "All Systems Red". But read the first novella first.

Ta, L.
Profile Image for Jilly.
1,838 reviews6,164 followers
July 9, 2018
I love Murderbot!
What's not to love about a depressed, soap-opera watching, socially awkward, killing machine?

People are nervous of me because I'm a terrifying murderbot, and I'm nervous of them because they're humans.

This book is a continuation of our robot-with-low-self-esteem's story. Murderbot has decided to go back to where it first decided to name itself 'Murderbot'. On the way, it makes a new friend - a sentient space ship that Murderbot names ART, an acronym for Asshole Research Transport. I kinda liked ART, but Murderbot took a while to warm up to him. ART likes humans and is trying to help Murderbot pose as a human with lots of robot parts.

Yes, the giant transport bot is going to help the (murderbot) pretend to be human. This will go well.

When Murderbot meets a different kind of robot on his journey, that robot has a very new idea:

Murderbot: "What do you propose to do?"

There was a long pause.

"We could kill them."

Well, that was an unusual approach.

Muderbot: "Kill who?"

Other robot: "All of them. The humans here."

ART said, "What does it want?"

"To kill all the humans," I answered.

I could feel ART metaphorically clutch its function.

Aww, robots wanting to kill us all. The age-old problem. We all know that this is how things will end for us. Let's face it. We are building things that are for sure going to kill the crap out of us one day.

Why do they even bother with the sign?

This book was super fun with a lot of action. Murderbot's inner dialogue is hilariously snarky. The only down side to this series is how short the books are. I need more Murderbot in my life.

Profile Image for Melissa ~ Bantering Books.
207 reviews788 followers
April 16, 2023
Murderbot may not like humans, but boy, do humans like Murderbot.

And I’m one of those humans. I like it, too. Murderbot is charming and funny, in a very unaware way. It doesn’t mean to be as likable as it is because, really, it only wishes to be left alone. Friends are neither wanted nor needed.

In Artificial Condition, Martha Wells’s second novella-sized entry in The Murderbot Diaries, Murderbot is off on its own, traveling to the space station where it once murdered a group of humans. (Or so it’s been told; its memory was erased after the incident.) Determined to uncover the truth of what happened on the space station, Murderbot teams up with ART, a clever and endearing Research Transport vessel. What Murderbot learns over the course of its investigation will upend all that it thought it knew.

Once again, I listened to Murderbot’s adventure on audio and am so glad I did. Kevin R. Free nails the narration, adding depth and humor to the character.

I have only the highest of praise, too, for Wells. Artificial Condition is an excellent sequel, filled with plenty of action and laughs. The listening minutes fly by.

I’m already on my library’s audio waitlist for novella #3, Rogue Protocol. I just can’t seem to get enough Murderbot.

And you’ll feel the same, if you give the series a try.
Profile Image for Gary.
442 reviews187 followers
May 19, 2018
When we first met the SecUnit Murderbot in Martha Wells’ “All System’s Red”, it had already hacked its governor module, which is ostensibly in place to prevent it from going on a kill-happy rampage. In truth, it had already (apparently) gone on said rampage when it was “under control”, and only hacked the module so it wouldn’t happen again (and so it could have unfettered access to the entertainment feeds).
When “Artificial Condition” opens, Murderbot has won a dubious kind of freedom thanks to the human allies it made in “All Systems Red”. Still ever wary of the protocols it must follow to allay the suspicions of the humans it encounters, Murderbot sets off to learn the truth about the massacre it had been held responsible for but has no clear recollection of. Murderbot forms a tenuous alliance with ART, a transport AI who helps disguise Murderbot’s identity as a rogue SecUnit by surgically altering it to appear as an augmented human. ART also helps Murderbot get a cover job to justify its trip to the mining facility on the planet RaviHyral, where its supposed massacre took place. Murderbot (in disguise as a human, at this point) takes on the role of bodyguard for a group of researchers trying to retrieve their hijacked data from the company after their contracts were abruptly terminated. The situation is an obvious set-up: the mining company’s owner, Tlacey, will only meet with them in person, on RaviHyral, and if their data is as important as they think it is, it would be much more cost effective to just get them out of the way. Murderbot agrees, of course, because it gets it inside the Tlacey facility, and because it’s a sucker for hard luck humans who get screwed over by corporations.
What I like most about this series is the way society exhibits social control over AIs like Murderbot, even without his governor module in place. As it pointed out in “All Systems Red”, it still has to hold down a job, and likes watching its soap operas, and can’t do those things if it goes around murdering people indiscriminately and has to stay on the run all the time. Also, as it points out in this one, humans control all the charging stations. So even without the software that controls its actions, Murderbot must behave exactly as if those safeguards are still in place if it wants to continue to exist. Society presumes non-observance of social norms, even when the incentives to observe those norms are ingrained without the strict enforcement applied by the governor modules (a conundrum any person belonging to a marginalized group can appreciate). Wells adds a new layer to the power dynamics in “Artificial Condition” by showing us how these attitudes build hierarchies through interactions between different classes of AIs. When Murderbot first meets ART, ART reveals that it knows Murderbot is a rogue Sec, and could either turn it over to the authorities or kill Murderbot itself, if Murderbot displeases it. ART even has the audacity to read Murderbot’s acquiescence to its terms as “friendship”. By contrast, the sexbots on RaviHyral have even more miserable restrictions placed on their behavior than SecUnits do and view a rogue Sec as someone to aspire to.
“Artificial Condition” is more tightly plotted than its predecessor, and the stakes are more personal, making it an even more satisfying work of brainy, funny, compelling sci-fi action. I highly recommend this series, starting with “All Systems Red”, to anyone who has not picked it up yet.
Profile Image for Karl.
3,258 reviews264 followers
May 10, 2018
Murderbot is a security robot (aka Secbot or Secunit). Murderbot is a name it gave itself after being involved years ago in a massacre of the humans it was supposed to be guarding on a remote mining moon. Murderbot is part human material with a lot of augmented mechanization. Murderbot hacked it's own control governor module to allow Murderbot to not be programmatically controlled. Murderbot likes nothing more than download and stream hours of media, mostly human serial dramas, to relieve its boredom, while doing a half assed version of its SecUnit job. We first met Murderbot last year in Martha Wells's "All Systems Red". We really really enjoy these Murderbot Diaries.

Now we get "Artificial Condition" installment two of the Murderbot's diaries (available as both a hardcover and e-book). In Book 1, when its most recent Company contract went spectacularly wrong (Not its fault. Not this time. this time it saved its humans). In fact it was purchased by one of those humans and given its autonomy. In "Artificial Condition" Murderbot wants to explore it's past to determine what exactly happened back on that mining moon that caused the self naming of Murderbot. It can't quite remember due to memory loss. To accomplish this it must undergo medical alterations to become more human (whatever that really is).

On Murderbot's journey to discover it's past, it finds itself stuck on the journey with an AI (artificial intelligence) whom Murderbot bestows with the name of ART. Art is much more than just a mindless system running a space transport. ART is a bored but sentient and highly intelligent transport system. As ART makes itself known to Murderbot, the two quibble over what media shows to watch, and the two learn much about each other.

Even though "Artificial Condition" does not have the level of action it's predecessor contained, the entertainment level and the fine quality of Martha Welles voice make this a worthy successor to "All Systems Red". And just think, it's only a few months until the next book is released in the series titled "Rogue Protocol" is due, at the moment it's in August of 2018.

I for one look forward to it.
Profile Image for Nark.
621 reviews872 followers
April 29, 2022
"...you may have noticed that for a terrifying murderbot i fuck up a lot."

this was great, just like the first book! i enjoyed it a lot. can we just talk about Murderbot's and ART's adorable connection? 😭 i'm emotional.

"ART started to play the soundtrack to Sanctuary Moon and weirdly, that helped." 🖤

really hope we get to see ART and the rest of the side characters we met in this book later on. i am definitely continuing with this series asap.
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,608 reviews1,481 followers
April 26, 2020
Re-read with BB&B starting today 24April20

I blew through this the second time around too. ART you are da bomb!

Sale Alert: Kindle Daily Deal 06Mar20 for $2.99

I thought Murderbot all on their own was great in the first book, but then they teamed up with a semi-sentient ship better known to the reader as ART or (Asshole Research Transport) and everything was even better.

Our favorite Cyborg SecUnit self titled Murderbot has left the travelers from the last book to set out on their own to find more details out about what happened in the incident in which they are said to have killed 57 humans in a malfunction. Murderbot had no idea that the vessel on a routine cargo run would be more alive than it seemed or that it would want to help in any way but hey cargo runs are boring and this seems like it will be a good time. Plus, Murderbot brought media with them to watch along the way.

I loved the dialogue between ART and Murderbot it was pretty funny and this was a friendship I could really get behind.
“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.”

But we can’t have a story with no humans and so Murderbot picks up a security contract along the way as cover. I really like how we are getting more backstory to Murderbot and the defining moment of their lives. It is coming a little at a time and I have some theories after this trip, like kind of theories. I can’t wait to find out if that one is right.

Murderbots interactions with Humans are getting better but it is still easier to hack the security feed and watch the exchange from a distance than to just look at them through its own eyes. Even the words of wisdom out of Murderbots mouth give some insight to what might have happened before
"Sometimes people do things to you that you can't do anything about. You just have to survive it and go on.”

I think I liked this book even more than the first and can’t wait to see what the next adventure has in store for us.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews868 followers
October 16, 2020
Murderbot! Books 1 & 2 of Martha Wells's amazing sci-fi adventure series. | Bookshelf Fantasies

It's hard not to like Murderbot. Martha Wells' second installment of the Murderbot Diaries, Artificial Condition, picks up where All Systems Red ends. This is another fun read about our rogue murderbot with its love for media, especially a space (soap) opera entitled "Sanctuary Moon." In All Systems Red, Murderbot interacts with and protects a team of scientists. While it takes on a new mission with scientists in Artificial Condition, the most interesting interactions are with other AI. Lots and lots of fun. 4.5 stars.

“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.”
Profile Image for Dennis.
659 reviews269 followers
April 19, 2021
2021 reread:

Bumping this up to four stars. I had been complaining about a lack of relevant plot the first time around. And while this might be true, to some extent, this time it didn't bother me at all. Because I've been right about something else - it is better to read these novellas back to back. This second one really is more about Murderbot's inner journey than whatever happens during its return to the site of one of its previous assignments. Although, I did care much more about what happens there, too, because I cared more about the relationships that develop along the way. Even got a little emotional towards the end. So, yeah, easily four stars now.

2018 review:

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.

It’s been a joy to watch Murderbot’s continued struggle with being a sentient being. On the one hand trying (and choosing, actually) to protect its human clients while on the other hand still having a tendency of wanting to be left alone by those dim-witted meatballs and instead watching its beloved entertainment feeds.

There’s also the addition of ART, another AI, which turned out to be a good idea, since interactions between the two are very entertaining. Add to that the fact that Murderbot has to disguise as an augmented human, which makes it very very uncomfortable.

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.

Yes, it's been fun.

But this second novella reads a bit like a side-story. Plot-wise it was very thin.

I’ve got the feeling this series would be better suited to be read as a whole. So the way to go seems for me to get hold of the next two books in the series and then start reading from the beginning.

The four novellas amount to a sum of 646 pages. Which makes the ebooks seem quite expensive at a total of roughly 30 Euros.

Is it worth it? After the first novella I would have answered this with a yes, I think so. Now it’s more of a it possibly might be.

We’ll see what happens.

You may have noticed that for a terrifying murderbot I fuck up a lot.

Yes. Yes, I did. ;)

Winner of the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Novella
2018 Nebula Award finalist for Best Novella

2019 Hugo Award Finalists

Best Novel
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Best Novella
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Best Novelette
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho (Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog)
The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly (Tor.com)
Nine Last Days on Planet Earth by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com)
The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com)
The Thing About Ghost Stories by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine)
When We Were Starless by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld Magazine)

Best Short Story
The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed Magazine)
The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine)
The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine)
STET by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine)
The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine)
A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium Of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine)

Best Series
• The Centenal Cycle by Malka Older
• The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
• Machineries of Empire by Yoon Ha Lee
• The October Daye Series by Seanan McGuire
• The Universe of Xuya by Aliette de Bodard
Wayfarers by Becky Chambers

Best Related Work
Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works
Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee
• The Hobbit Duology (a documentary in three parts), written and edited by Lindsay Ellis and Angelina Meehan
An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards 1953-2000 by Jo Walton
• The Mexicanx Initiative Experience at Worldcon 76 by Julia Rios, Libia Brenda, Pablo Defendini, and John Picacio
Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing by Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon

Best Graphic Story
Abbott, written by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colors by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell
Black Panther: Long Live the King, written by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington, art by André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino, and Tana Ford
Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Paper Girls, Volume 4 , written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang, colors by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Saga, Volume 9, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples

Best Art Book
The Book of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin
Daydreamer’s Journey: The Art of Julie Dillon by Julie Dillon
Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer
Spectrum 25: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, editor John Fleskes
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – The Art of the Movie by Ramin Zahed
Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, editor Catherine McIlwaine

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt; Macmillan Children’s Books)
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform / Gollancz)
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (Little, Brown / Hot Key Books)
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)
The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin (David Fickling Books / Scholastic)
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (Random House / Penguin Teen)

2018 Nebula Award Finalists

Best Novel
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK)
Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller (Ecco; Orbit UK)
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Witchmark by C.L. Polk (Tor.com Publishing)
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Best Novella
Fire Ant by Jonathan P. Brazee (Semper Fi)
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean)
Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield (Tor.com Publishing)
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing)
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)

Best Novelette
The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly (Tor.com 7/11/18)
An Agent of Utopia by Andy Duncan (An Agent of Utopia)
The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births by José Pablo Iriarte (Lightspeed 1/18)
The Rule of Three by Lawrence M. Schoen (Future Science Fiction Digest 12/18)
Messenger by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi (Expanding Universe, Volume 4)

Best Short Story
Interview for the End of the World by Rhett C. Bruno (Bridge Across the Stars)
The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by Phenderson Djèlí Clark (Fireside 2/18)
Going Dark by Richard Fox (Backblast Area Clear)
And Yet by A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny 3-4/18)
A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium Of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow (Apex 2/6/18)
The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed 1/18)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt; Macmillan)
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (Rick Riordan Presents)
A Light in the Dark by A.K. Du Boff (BDL)
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (Random House)
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)
Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien (Henry Holt)
Profile Image for Caroline .
418 reviews576 followers
November 17, 2022

There's less of a balance between the characters and environment here than in book one, All Systems Red, and even the addition of a new likable character, ART, can't totally save Artificial Condition. Wells focused too lovingly on too many unnecessary details, making this story a slog with the added bonus of making me feel dumb.

As with All Systems Red, Artificial Condition features world-building only in the broadest sense as Wells plunged her reader straight into the setting without background information. But that's not necessarily a flaw; readers can figure out the rules of strange worlds with enough telling scenes and details. The big problem is that the story spins its wheels as Wells focused on the immediate environment. She detailed it meticulously--yet ironically, it’s difficult to visualize. This also extends to the characters. I was never clear on ART. I gathered that it’s some kind of bot shuttle that communicates with Murderbot via software. On the page that looks like the two talk telepathically. Murderbot is a kind of humanoid robot that has mechanical but also organic parts. How and why it has organic parts has yet to be explained, but Wells really needed to do that in this book to advance and fill out the larger story arc.

It was mainly the environment that was a discombobulated mess in my head, though. Most of the story takes place in a “transport hub,” or “transport ring,” which may be like a subway station with some cafeterias and retail attached. That could be wrong. It’s hard to tell up from down, as Wells constantly threw out a bunch of futuristic structural words and showed Murderbot traveling in different directions. When it says, "I had already downloaded a map from the public feed . . . ", I felt a twinge of envy.

The best parts are when Murderbot is the focus and when it and ART are interacting. These are amusing characters. They love watching a favorite show together. Their dynamic has enough human-like attributes that it’s easy to see and appreciate. Murderbot is the heart and soul of the books, and Wells should have leaned into this character, lingering on Murderbot's personality and its interactions with ART and with other characters. Any reader can see that this series has won the awards it has because of this character.

With no background information, vague world-building, and excessive physical detail, Artificial Condition reminded me of the terrible A House Between Earth and the Moon, making me wonder if this is just how science fiction is. But then I think if this is typical, the genre wouldn’t be as popular as it is, and I loved The Martian Chronicles, which, as I recall, isn’t like this. Wells obviously didn’t want to earn a reputation for info-dumping, but providing some background so readers have a foundational understanding isn’t bad storytelling. Making an environment hard to visualize and as futuristic as possible doesn’t automatically legitimize a science-fiction story. As likable as Murderbot, ART, and even some of the cardboard human characters are, I didn’t find Artificial Condition compelling and am undecided on whether to continue reading the series.
Profile Image for Gavin.
863 reviews393 followers
May 28, 2018
Martha Wells's fantastic sci-fi novella Artificial Condition was a worthy sequel to the equally awesome All Systems Red. This series is everything an AI sci-fi story should be and then some! It was thought provoking but also entertaining and engaging.

Wells's sci-fi world of corporations gone wild in a space faring future is both interesting and excellent but just like the first book Murderbot was the true star of the show. Our favourite grumpy, socially anxious, security bot is the story's only POV character and that really works as Murderbot is a truly unique character with an engaging voice. Never has it been so easy to love a Murderbot!

The story was engaging and exciting. Having gone completely rogue at the end of the first book Murderbot is heading back to the planet that holds the secrets to its dark past. An incident which left a whole group of humans dead! Before we know it Murderbot is making an unexpected new friend in the form of a Research Transport vessel AI and signing on as a security consultant to a group of young humans. Murderbot needs the job as cover to get cleared to visit the planet of the incident but soon finds that the humans are caught up in a bit of danger and intrigue of their own and are in need of some serious help. Good thing Murderbot specializes in keeping idiot humans alive in-between watching episodes of its favourite TV shows!

The standout secondary character was ART, the Transport AI, who makes an effort to befriend Murderbot.

All in all this was a super enjoyable read and I cannot wait for the release of Murderbot's next adventure.

Rating: 5 stars.

Audio Note: Kevin.R.Free did a decent job with the audio without being anything outstanding.

Note: On to the criticism! Nothing to moan about in terms of the actual story which is excellent but the pricing of the Murderbot novellas are pretty disgraceful. I'm all for novellas but to price them the same as a full book just makes it feel like this was the one book that got split into three or four novellas so the publisher (shame on you Tor!) can con three or four lots of cash out of the buyer:(
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