Am I making it worse? I think I’m making it worse.
Following the events in Network Effect, the Barish-Estranza corporation has sent rescue ships to a newly-colonized planet in peril, as well as additional SecUnits. But if there’s an ethical corporation out there, Murderbot has yet to find it, and if Barish-Estranza can’t have the planet, they’re sure as hell not leaving without something. If that something just happens to be an entire colony of humans, well, a free workforce is a decent runner-up prize.
But there’s something wrong with Murderbot; it isn’t running within normal operational parameters. ART’s crew and the humans from Preservation are doing everything they can to protect the colonists, but with Barish-Estranza’s SecUnit-heavy persuasion teams, they’re going to have to hope Murderbot figures out what’s wrong with itself, and fast!
Yeah, this plan is… not going to work.
“So the next time I get optimistic about something, I want one of you to punch me in the face. Okay, not really, because let’s be real, that would end badly. Maybe remind me to punch myself in the face.”
I am a huge Murderbot fan and was delighted to get an eARC for this book. Thank you to @netgalley and @tordotcom for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Now, this one continues immediately from where Network Effect lets off. For the people who don’t know, the publication order and chronological order is different from Murderbot #5 – Fugitive Telemetry (Murderbot diaries #6) was published after Network Effect (Murderbot diaries #5) but canonically it occurs before the events in Network Effect.
Network Effect was the first full sized novel in the Murderbot series and one thing I enjoyed greatly in it was that the higher page count let Martha Wells set up a sub-plot mystery along with the main plot. Now System Collapse being the second full sized novel had my hopes up for similar plot devices. And I was rewarded, the first chapter was very strong and immediately set up a new sub-plot too.
Unfortunately, the rest of the first half and a good portion of the second half of the book was a letdown for me. It seemed to follow the structure of the first phase of the Murderbot diaries (the GrayCris era) where the first half of the books were slow and exposition filled but there is a turning point around 50% of the book. And from there the books keep up-shifting the gears and action picks up. While the first four novellas had this formula, those worked for me because of Murderbot’s inner monologue and for lack-of-my-ability-to-describe-it ‘the vibes.’
Murderbot is dealing with PTSD from a new internal trauma. While this is a new and significant direction that Martha Wells is taking Murderbot through, subjectively I didn’t like it. I’m here for the snark, the social awkwardness, the humor, and the action scenes – all of which there is a considerate dearth of. I’m not a stranger to people just standing around and talking in this series but usually there’s Murderbot’s internal sarcastic running commentary to save me. In this book though, Murderbot just back-burners all of these conversations and focuses on its trauma. It is realistic and makes sense with the events across N.E. and this book, but it’s just not enjoyable. Another factor is that the traumatic event is not discussed for the first half of the book at all, so Murderbot acknowledges it happened, but it doesn’t give any detail, it just mentions ‘redacted’ all over.
The last quarter of the book really saved it for me. I didn’t have it but whoever had Murderbot directs a documentary in their bingo card, you can cross off that square. The book returns to a lot of what made the previous novels so good. The action ramps up, Murderbot starts ̶s̶w̶e̶a̶r̶i̶n̶g̶ interacting more with the characters around it, one thing after the other goes wrong setting up for a proper roller coaster climax. I really like where the story is after the climax too, with some new and returning characters, making me hopeful for the next book. In conclusion, I liked this one a bit more than Fugitive Telemetry but it falls massively off the high standard set by the other books in this series and despite perpetually wanting more Murderbot I feel this book would have benefited with a much shorter page count.