Network Effect – Martha Wells

Network Effect

Summary

A security cyborg with a complex past accompanies the daughter of its prior owner on a survey trip that turns out to be much more complicated - and dangerous - than expected.

Review

I’ve been arguing that Murderbot is not well served by format of the previous extended series of novellas, and that its story would be better told in novel form. To my mind, Network Effect vindicates that assertion. By the end of the previous novella, I felt the Murderbot narrative was beginning to stagnate, and that Murderbot itself had stopped developing emotionally. Network Effect addresses both those complaints.

In this book, Murderbot meets up again with its friend ART, the ship-bot that has featured in a couple of previous installments. Here, though, their relationship is at the center of the story, with Murderbot – reluctantly, of course – facing some truths about itself. In this context, Murderbot’s habitual ironic, deadpan commentary takes on new life. Where in the last book, it began to be tiring, same-old, same-old, here it’s again as endearing and fun as in the first book.

While the book is strong, characterwise, the plot is … fine; not entirely convincing, but plot has never really been the center of this series. Where I felt the book needed more attention was on basic editing. The tense, in particular, in the latter half, is all over the place. That’s complicated by the decision not to distinguish Murderbot’s interior dialogue (present tense) in any way from the story action (past tense), since italics are used for network feed messages (also present tense). It’s confusing at times, and I suspect the source of the errors in the prose as well.

All told, I’m happy to see a Murderbot novel, and even happier that the shift does pull the narrative back out of the doldrums into which it had sailed. This is a fun book. Don’t give up at Exit Strategy. Here’s hoping the next novel sees Murderbot continuing to develop.

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