This book/novella had been following me around across several hunts for new reading material. It appeared on a number of recommendation and “Best of” lists and even made the rounds here on WordPress a little while back. What sealed the deal on me finally giving it a read, however, was seeing it pop up in an my email as Tor Publishing’s free ebook for the month of April. How could I refuse?
This story is told from the perspective of an unnamed cyborg that calls itself “Murderbot.” The property of an influential, yet extremely frugal, security company, Murderbot has secretly disabled the programming that inhibits its ability to make decisions and is operating independently. Afraid of being discovered and disassembled, our protagonist has thus far made only modest use of this freedom by upgrading its basic (read cheap) intelligence programming and quietly streaming entertainment feeds. Beyond that Murderbot just continues on going through the motions of fulfilling contracts by doing the bare minimum amount of work while binge-watching its favorite shows. However, when the latest group it has been assigned to protect comes under attack, Murderbot finds that it may need to regain its original focus in order to keep its human companions alive. Now if only they would stop being so damn friendly it just might be able to do the job.
Given all the glowing reviews I had come across for this book and series, I was expecting to love this. Instead, however, I wound up feeling a bit disappointed. I was intrigued by premise and humor of the story, but I did not really get interested in the plot until roughly the halfway mark and then from there it didn’t really do much to keep me invested after that. The story on the whole felt a bit too vague, which in combination with some pretty light universe building and development of the human characters made it hard for me to really dive into this. Even Murderbot, whom I enjoyed for the most part, sometimes fell a bit flat on account of its chronic disinterest in events. I think it might actually have been this extreme nonchalance on the part of our narrator that it made it so hard for me to really get invested. I get it that we’re viewing the events of the novel through such a character, but a bit more engagement in telling or developing the story would have gone a long way. I won’t deny I got some good chuckles out of this, but I had been anticipating a whole lot more going.
Considering how quick a read this was (it checked in at a breezy 160 pages), I haven’t totally ruled out reading the next book in the series if it happens to cross my path. I did see some potential in the story going forward and feel that Murderbot could grow on me as a character if its universe gets a bit more defined. Then again, maybe this just wasn’t the book for me. I am apparently in the minority opinion here, so feel free to judge for yourself.