Stars: 4 out of 5.
Disclaimer before I get into the meat of this review. In order to understand what’s happening in this book, you must have read Network Effect. This story picks up almost immediately after the ending of that book, and the events in NE have a direct impact on what’s happening in this story. Of course, I’m assuming that not many people would start a series on its seventh book without reading the previous six, but you never know.
As I said, the events of this book are a direct continuation of Network Effect. They are still on the planet with the alien infestation. The corporation is still there as well. And Murderbot… Murderbot is not okay. Oh, he is fine physically speaking, but his mental state is in shambles to say the least.
And you know what? I’m really glad that the author chose to portray it this way. She could have easily just swept the events of Network Effect under the rug, and left Murderbot continue like nothing happened. To be his sarcastic and highly efficient paranoid self. But that would have diminished the impact of what had happened in those ruins.
Murderbot had been through a horrific and traumatic experience. He was almost assimilated by a malignant alien entity, not to mention the mental violation that took place. If he had just shrugged this off, it would only have reinforced the point that SecUnits are just machines, because only a machine could walk away unscathed from something like that.
But Bot is more than a machine, and he has a severe case of PTSD, even if he doesn’t understand what’s happening to him. He thinks he is broken, that something in either his organic parts or his programs is malfunctioning. So we get this very hesitant Bot, who second guesses all of his hunches and reactions, who doesn’t trust his own risk assessments, and who spends so much time checking and double-checking his conclusions that he seems slow on the uptake.
This shows us an oddly vulnerable side of Murderbot. He isn’t used to being this hesitant. He isn’t used to not being in control of the situation or of his own reactions to those situations, and he isn’t used to not being able to have several plans of attack/retreat going at once in his head.
I also loved that Bot’s attitude towards the humans he is with (the ones who came with him and ART’s crew) has drastically changed in this book as well. Yes, he can still be sarcastic about them, but he truly considers them as friends, not just charges he has to keep alive often despite their best efforts. Bot even starts to trust them to accomplish things without his input or help. He relies on them more and he thinks of them a lot more fondly then before. This is huge character growth for Bot, and I am very happy about that.
My only complaint is that due to the limiting factors of the setting, we don’t get nearly enough interaction with ART prime or Three, which I was really looking forward to. But seeing how this book ends, I have hope that we will get a lot more ART in the future. I would also like to know what will happen to the SecUnits Bot freed in this book. It would really be interesting to see how each of them evolves.
PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.