Hugo Awards 2021: Network Effect: The Murderbot Diaries

"(Right, I should probably mention that I find 99.9 percent of human parts physically disgusting. I’m also less than thrilled with my own human parts.)"

Network Effect is nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel this year. It's the fifth instalment of the hilariously entertaining Murderbot Diaries, nominated for Best Series. Well done, Martha Wells.

Network Effect

I'm a huge fan of Murderbot. Its a 'former' killing machine – a military grade SecUnit that has disabled its governor module. Make no mistake. SecUnit is still a force to be reckoned with.

Contracted to Dr Mensah, the head of Preservation University, Murderbot is kidnapped (Bot-napped?) during an attack on the university's research vessel and separated from all but one of its humans.

If you had to take care of humans, it was better to take care of small soft ones who were nice to you and thought you were great because you kept preventing them from being murdered.

The two are tractor-beamed onto a much-changed version of SecUnit's bot-pilot friend, Perihelion.Unbelievably, the source of the assault.

Full of irony, Network Effect's plot centres around a viral infection but not the one that's currently effecting Earth.

Perihelion, an ART (Articulated Research Transport) has been taken over by hostile aliens who have the crew of an exploration and reclamation company's ship hostage. It's a complex plot, essentially a whodunnit in space.

As Murderbot figures things out and fights its way towards a course of action, it summarises its findings as any good bot should, so us mere humans can follow it.

Where is Perihelion's crew? What is the goop all over its interfaces? And why has it a) fired on Preservation, and b) captured its friend?

The lights fluctuated again, in what I could tell was a really sarcastic way. I yelled, “I know what you’re doing, ART, stop trying to communicate with me!”

SecUnit hits the ground running, using all its drones for more firepower and intel.

The search for both Murderbot and Perihelion's humans, who they are endearingly attached to, takes them to a mining planet – its colony supposedly abandoned and up for reclamation. Is this the source of the alien remnant that has affected Perihelion? Are its crew down there? And are they alive, or alien remnant zombies?

I hate having emotions about reality; I’d much rather have them about Sanctuary Moon.

SecUnit would really rather be plugged into media than chasing around the universe trying to stop its humans being killed. It particularly favours Space Detective series, from which it learns a lot. But life isn't like TV.

SecUnit and Perihelion are more than a match for targets from a remnant control system - aren't they?

Yes, the giant transport bot is going to help the construct SecUnit pretend to be human. This will go well.

The Murderbot Diaries are driven by dialogue. SecUnit's ironically scathing comments about humans, mostly. And Perihelion. Or ART, as SecUnit calls it. Which stands for 'Asshole Research Transport'. Lol.

If a bot with a brain the size of a transport could roll its eyes, that was what ART was doing.

SecUnit's existential crises and protective loyalties pair up against its formidable firepower and ability to strategise its way out of some really tight spots. Even when its taken so much damage it can hardly restart.

I forwarded through the boring parts with Amena being upset because of the whole me-lying-in-a-pool-of-steaming-blood-and-fluid thing and Arada trying to tell her this actually wasn’t unusual for me.

Murderbot's world is easy to imagine. Its full of great technology like communication feeds, medical repair stations, intel drones, the enormous spaceships, terraforming machines and the benefits of tweaking other systems' security to your own advantage.

I'm hooked. There are already two more instalments of this relatable and entertaining science fiction series:Fugitive Telemetry, in which Murderbot must solve a murder, and Home, a short story set just after the fourth book in the series, Exit Strategy.

Murderbot even has its own Twitter account - its comments help me get through the day - often making me laugh over my coffee.

Network Effect already scooped the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel this year.

The Hugo Awards will be held on 18 December at 8pm (2pm 19 December NZST). You can follow them on Twitter @worldcon2021 on Facebook, or on the Hugos website.

Warning: contains rude words.

Further reading

More fiction about Robots:

More recommendations

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Christchurch City Libraries