Book Rec: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

I know that this series has been getting a lot of hype, but it makes me so happy that I want to talk about it, as well!

“All Systems Red” is the first book in the series.

The premise of this series is that Murderbot, the protagonist, is a construct who doesn’t really know where they fit in or who they want to be. A construct is similar to a cyborg (half human, half machine), with the extra qualification of the human components having been cloned.

This puts Murderbot in an awkward position as they are not considered a legal person.

Murderbot’s saving grace is that they’ve hacked their governor module (a component that can control them, essentially), but they are especially endearing as they use that bit of freedom to do the bare minimum at their job and watch TV. Which, let’s be honest, we all want to do sometimes!

What’s wonderful, though, is how relatable Murderbot is. They seem (understandably) stressed but still manages to do heroic things. And their coping mechanisms are phenomenally awkward (like staring at a wall if humans try to speak with them).

There are so many times in the series when I just want to give Murderbot a hug! (I wouldn’t, of course, because that would make them terribly uncomfortable.)

Who would I recommend this series to?

Everyone! Well, not quite, but certainly anyone who enjoys Science Fiction. There’s advanced technology (spaceships, habitats to live on alien planets, and others, including Murderbot themself). It’s set in space. It’s futuristic, but it’s also relevant.

However, Murderbot is such a great character and the series is written so well that I would recommend it to people who may not read Sci-Fi usually. Sci-Fi aspects are woven throughout and it very much belongs in that genre, but it’s not the Heinlein-type of Sci-Fi where there’s a lot of macho shooting and it only appeals to a specific audience. I mean, there are fights with guns and they’re great, but it’s not a constant barrage of violence.

Murderbot raises a lot of questions about humanity and priorities, about mental health and social customs, and about our relationship with media (TV, books, etc) and how it can be something calming, entertaining, engrossing, and educational. With these elements, Murderbot can be enjoyed by more than just Sci-Fi readers.

Additionally, the first four books are all novellas, so that makes the series considerably less daunting than other very long, even if very good, Sci-Fi books.

The books in the main series are all novellas, so aren’t too long. My copy of the first book, “All Systems Red,” is paperback and the rest are hardback.

Side Note

Another thing I really enjoyed about Murderbot is that Murderbot is both non-binary and asexual. While it does play a part in some subplots, for the most part attention isn’t particularly drawn to that. Those facets of their character are just normal and a part of who they are.

There is a character in the series as well who uses the pronouns “te” and “ter” (Rami). I had never heard about these pronouns before. While looking them up, I found a resource that helped explain pronouns. Wells has shown that incorporating pronouns other than the binary (he/she) can help to normalize using pronouns that might be unfamiliar. Other than the pronouns being used, there isn’t any comment made on them being odd or unexpected. The other characters use them naturally.

As a straight, CIS person, I think it’s really important for me to learn about marginalized people, make sure that I respect them (e.g. by using their correct pronouns), and try to bolster their voices and experiences. I don’t have anyone particularly close to me who is non-binary or trans, so I hope that by following people online who are can help foster learning and empathy. A non-binary person I follow online is Jonathan Van Ness, from Queer Eye and Getting Curious, and they discuss trans and non-binary identities (and they have cats!), as well as a vast myriad of other topics. It is also good to read books written by LGBTQ+ authors and with LGBTQ+ characters. I haven’t read all of the books in the links, but they look like excellent resources so I hope to revisit them soon.

While reading The Murderbot Diaries series, especially early on, I found myself referring to Murderbot as “he,” but then realizing my error and correcting myself. I have a couple of friends who have read the first book (“All Systems Red”) and were doing the same as they spoke. It was really helpful because it was kind of teaching us to use the correct pronoun and to correct ourselves as we spoke, with the added bonus of not accidentally misgendering someone. I think that this series, and any book or series like it, will help to normalize this. I don’t think most people would intentionally misgender someone, but rather the majority of people are in the habit of using only “he” or “she.” Engaging with a text that uses “they” as a singular pronoun (which has been in use for ages) can help to make this more widespread, further than on just an individual level, so, if there are broader discussions, media like this will hopefully make the general public more welcoming towards non-binary people.

And anything that makes the world a bit kinder is worth at least a mention.

There is also a short story and a novel in the Murderbot universe. I haven’t read them yet, but I’m really excited to!

I pre-ordered “Network Effect” from Mr B’s Emporium in Bath and they were very helpful! Zoe was not quite as excited as I was when the book arrived.

Published by mooseisreading

Canadian living in the UK. I love books, games, and cats!

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