Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells
Martha Wells’ endearingly grumpy cyborg Security Unit Murderbot returns with a vengeance in Rogue Protocol (2018), the third novella in the MURDERBOT DIARIES series. In Rogue Protocol, Murderbot heads off to Milu, a deserted terraforming facility in space, to investigate the past of a murky group called GrayCris, which we originally met in the first book in this series, the Nebula award-winning All Systems Red. GrayCris appears to be intent on illegally collecting the extremely valuable remnants of alien civilizations. To all appearances Milu is an abandoned project of GrayCris, but Murderbot suspects, based on its online research, that GrayCris may have been secretly using Milu as a cover for its recovery operations for alien remnants. If Murderbot can find proof of these illegal operations on Milu, the legal case against GrayCris will become much more compelling … and perhaps people will forget about a certain SecUnit that has mysteriously gone astray.
As always with its plans, Murderbot thinks it’s going to do this thing all by itself; as usual, a group of humans that desperately needs its help causes a change of plans for our deeply introverted SecUnit. Masquerading as a technologically augmented human security consultant rather than a cyborg, Murderbot find that the bot-driven transport spaceship needs its intervention to mediate conflicts between its passengers (“If you bother her again I will break every bone in your hand and arm. It will take about an hour.”). Once Murderbot reaches Milu, it finds the facility isn’t entirely abandoned: a team of humans, along with two suspicious security consultants and a chipper human-form robot assistant called Miki, are on an excursion to investigate Milu as well. Murderbot scrambles to convince Miki, and through Miki the rest of the team, that Murderbot is authorized to be on the site as additional security help. And then the team is attacked …
Murderbot’s system hacking, strategizing, and enemy ass-kicking talents continue to develop and amaze in Rogue Protocol, and are just a complete joy to read about. Even Murderbot’s interpersonal relationship abilities develop, despite all of its intentions otherwise. Murderbot does a lot of internal grumping about the various shortcomings of humans, bots and other sentient beings, but when they need its help and protection, somehow Murderbot never fails to throw itself into the fray.
Murderbot is also taken aback by the rather childlike bot Miki’s claim of friendship with its human owner, Don Abene … and even more dumbfounded to find that Don Abene considers Miki a friend as well. Murderbot’s interactions with them prompt it to reevaluate its own relationships with humans, especially Dr. Mensah, Murderbot’s legal owner.
These introspective moments, combined with Wells’ deft hand at creating a believable universe filled with advanced technology, some compelling action, and Murderbot’s dryly humorous voice, make Rogue Protocol a SF novella that’s both fascinating and enjoyable. This is DEFINITELY a series worth reading if you like science fiction … and very possibly even if you’re not generally a SF fan. The fourth novella in this series, Exit Strategy, will be published October 2, 2018.
I love Murderbot! Kevin R. Free’s interpretation of Murderbot in Recorded Books’ audio edition has really grown on me.
Life just doesn’t get any easier for Murderbot. Every time it gets a job, or a lead on the nefarious GrayCris corporation’s wrongdoings, it keeps having to learn lessons about love and friendship and how it’s simultaneously great and terrible to have the free agency to make choices. Harrumph!
Self-actualization might not be Murderbot’s favorite or most-exercised trait, but I did appreciate how begrudgingly the concept wove into Rogue Protocol’s narrative, especially as Murderbot spends more time with the helper-bot Miki and its friends on the GoodNightLander Independent team as they try to asses the abandoned terraforming station. I also appreciated (see also: “was terrified by”) the survival horror narrative Martha Wells employs in this novella; she pulls out all the stops here, creating a deeply claustrophobic and stress-inducing environment where danger lurks around literally every corner. And the ending — that bittersweetly triumphant ending — did that ever hurt. But now Murderbot’s got a whole new purpose and motivation to bring down GrayCris, and I for one would not be brave enough to stand between Murderbot and any objective. Next stop: Exit Strategy!
Okay. There is no doubt. I MUST read these.
Absolutely! I’ve had just so much fun with these, and they’re very quick reads.
The last of the tetralogy comes out in October, right? Excellent. I’ll be able to binge-buy these for myself!
Yes … except that I’ve heard word that the 4th book may not actually be the last. Apparently Martha Wells is thinking about continuing with the series, which I think would be great. But the 4th book does give you a reasonable amount of closure. And I’d certainly recommend these for a binge-buy!
I found the link! And the 5th work will be a full-length novel! https://www.tor.com/2018/07/16/more-murderbot-on-the-horizon-announcing-a-new-martha-wells-novel/
Oh, yay! That’s fantastic! :D