No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Saturday, December 16, 2017

2017/98: Artificial Condition -- Martha Wells

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? [p. 132]
In which Murderbot finds a friend (who loves human media just as much as our narrator, and would like to recommend this new show); revisits the scene of the crime; and confounds corporate machinations.

This is a real delight, and it's just as good (if not quite as fresh and groundbreaking: how could it be?) as All Systems Red, the first in the series. Murderbot is an autonomous agent in this novella, and is fortunate to fall into good company -- company that can help them deal with some practicalities which had previously eluded them.

Murderbot has a complicated relationship with authority: now they're assuming the authority role themself, which doesn't help with the sense of responsibility programmed into their software. They acquire a certain degree of self-knowledge simply by interacting, and disagreeing, with ART (short for Asshole Research Transport: one of Murderbot's new friends): further knowledge, about their own past and about the environment which they inhabit, is acquired from human clients and from sexbots -- more properly Comfort Units, a class of cyborg about which Murderbot has previously been dismissive. Turns out Murderbot was misinformed. (I really hope there will be more Comfort Units in subsequent books. Also more ART.)

Wells expands the Murderbot universe considerably in Artificial Condition: there are further hints of long-vanished alien civilisations (and the 'strange synthetics' left by those aliens), and more sense of the economy, society and ambience of human (and cyborg) culture. There is more of Murderbot's history, and a lot more of its stubborn, sarcastic, fragile personality.

A delight: I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Humans are nervous of me because I'm a terrifying murderbot, and I'm nervous of them because they're humans. [p. 65]

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