System Collapse
December 10, 2023
Book Review

System Collapse

reviewed by Lou Jacobs


Murderbot enthusiasts, rejoice! Your latest fix, a full-length novel featuring your beloved SecUnit Robot, has arrived. This seventh installment, a direct sequel to the events in Network Effect (the fifth book and the first full-length novel in the series, following richly crafted novellas), is not recommended as a standalone.

For newcomers to the Murderbot series, it’s essential to start with the first novella, the multi-award-winning All Systems Red. This series, a cerebral science fiction space opera, is replete with intrigue, action, and mystery. It centers around a self-hacked robot on a quest to understand life’s meaning.

As an introduction: Murderbot began its journey as a security cyborg, constructed from both inorganic and cloned human materials. Initially an indiscriminate killing machine under its owners’ control, it eventually hacked its programming governor unit, attaining free will, independence, and sentience. Despite this, it continues to serve its human owners on missions across the galaxy. We’ve seen Murderbot evolve in personality, maturity, and quirks—sometimes cranky, cynical, paranoid, and anxious, other times depressed. However, it’s no longer a mindless killer; it acts out of necessity to protect the humans it has grown to care for. Frustrated by their poor choices, which often require its rescue, Murderbot unwinds by watching media, with a favorite show being “The Rise And Fall Of Sanctuary Moon”, including specific beloved episodes.

In this adventure, Murderbot confronts the unethical megacorporation Barish-Estranza, which has dispatched mercenaries to enslave the surviving colonists of a planet and exploit its resources. The colonists distrust both Murderbot’s team and Barish-Estranza, having survived a contamination by killer alien technology. Martha Wells, as an adept storyteller and world builder, weaves a complex, twisted plot with action and intrigue reminiscent of a John Wick movie. The novel delves into themes of unchecked capitalism and colonialism, along with the exploration of diversity and the non-significance of gender roles or pronouns. Witnessing Murderbot’s continuous evolution, despite its “somewhat deficient” humans, is a thrilling experience.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Tordotcom for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review

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