TLDR: Robot hacks itself and watches soap operas, but the inconvenient humans keep endangering themselves.
This science fiction series by Martha Wells is the most heartwarming, humane, and hilarious treatment of artificial intelligence I have come across. The prickly and sarcastic Security Unit – which secretly refers to itself as Murderbot – has hacked the governor module that allows it to be controlled by humans, but must play along anyway lest they suspect it’s gone rogue and wipe or destroy it.
Its task in the first instalment (All Systems Red) is to protect a group of scientists during the exploration of a distant planet. It would much prefer to be left alone to enjoy its soap operas, but is constantly interrupted by the humans getting attacked by giant native fauna or rival humans. And worse, it’s starting to find that it cares.
The Murderbot Diaries currently comprises (as far as I can tell) five novellas, one novel, and two short stories. The author has noted (in an interview with The Verge) that the first four novellas (All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy) have an overarching story arc. There’s also a short story (Compulsory) set before this arc, and another (Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory) set afterwards. This is where I’m up to now and I’m itching to get into the next book…
Following this overarching story, there is a full-length novel (Network Effect) which I understand can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone, but a quick scan of Goodreads reviews (while desperately trying to avoid spoilers) suggests you’d get more from it if read after the other books. Well, I know I’m ready for it! And the sixth book (Fugitive Telemetry), another novella, is due for publication next month and is a prequel to Network Effect. So, I could soon find myself in that bittersweet situation of being all caught up on a fantastic series, waiting not-so-patiently for the next instalment. Worth it, though.