Network Effect

- Martha Wells


You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.

I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.



I’ve had clients who thought they needed an absurd level of security. (And I’m talking absurd even by my standards, and my code was developed by a bond company known for intense xenophobic paranoia, tempered only by desperate greed.) I’ve also had clients who thought they didn’t need any security at all, right up until something ate them. (That’s mostly a metaphor. My uneaten client stat is high.)


absolute favourite:

“Surely they won’t suspect anything,” Ratthi was saying to the others at the bulk dock. “Who runs around with a friendly rogue SecUnit? Besides us, I mean.”

I was more than a little nervous about making it to Network Effect. I’ve loved the Murderbot Diaries so far, but I struggled to predict how a full-length novel would read. Murderbot is a big, sometimes one-note, personality and I was worried that too much would ruin a good thing. Worrying was a waste of time, though, because there is never enough Murderbot.

(Just a heads-up, when a murderbot stands there looking to the left of your head to avoid eye contact, it’s probably not thinking about killing you, it’s probably frantically trying to come up with a reply to whatever you just said to it.)

I don’t want to give anything away because there were quite a few surprises that made me so happy I couldn’t stop smiling. More than I even dreamed of hoping for, Network Effect made the first four novellas feel like the perfect teasers for this masterpiece.

Murderbot may be the perfect fictional character. Its comments and observations cut to the point most directly, often only realising the awkwardness and consequences afterwards. Murderbot’s interactions with unknowns, hostiles, and other bots are always enjoyable, but its interactions with those it trusts or likes (especially Mensah) are always my favourite. It’s even better to see how poorly Murderbot interacts with members of Mensah’s family unit.

Before I could, Overse caught up with me and asked, “Are you all right?”


I was absolutely great. It wasn’t like this situation needed to get any more emotionally fraught, or anything. I said, “I am functioning optimally.” (This was a line from Valorous Defenders, which is a great source for things humans and augmented humans think SecUnits say that SecUnits do not actually say.)


Overse made an exasperated noise. “I hate that show.” I’d forgotten that it was one of the shows I’d pulled off the Preservation Public Entertainment feed. The other humans were listening on the comm so hard I could pick up their breathing. Thiago pretended not to listen, flashing his helmet light over the stations on the upper tier of the control area. Overse added, “Just remember you’re not alone here.”


I never know what to say to that. I am actually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

I couldn’t write a review about Network Effect without talking about ART. I’ll hide the spoiler because the surprise of ART reappearing truly set the tone for the entire book. Murderbot’s immediate grief and need for vengeance when it discovers ART was deleted, and then the swing to anger and almost betrayal when it finds out ART had a hand in the kidnapping, was everything I’ve never known I wanted. Add on Amena, their relationship therapist, and it’s absolute perfection. I love how powerful and terrifying ART can be while doing everything it can to protect and save its friends. And I love how comfortable ART and Murderbot are together even when they’re furious, but especially when they work together and watch media.

And it hit me then that ART had been desperate and terrified since the moment the Barish-Estranza explorer had sidled up and done whatever it had done. It had tricked its captors into taking it to me not because it had some kind of grand strategy but because it needed me.


I hate emotions.

Also, Murderbot 2.0 and SecUnit 3?! Fuck I love this series.
I will happily keep reading if Wells wants to keep writing Murderbot for the rest of her life. The day this series ends will be a travesty.

I could say it was an accident, I’d meant to take him prisoner and he had tried to get away and –


Dr. Mensah would never believe that. My accidents were spectacular and usually involved me losing a big chunk of my organic tissue or something; she knew I could stop a human without hurting them, without even leaving a bruise, that was my stupid job.


She would never trust me again. She would never stand close enough to touch (but without touching, because touching is gross) and just trust me. Or maybe she would, but it wouldn’t be the same.


Fuck, fuck everything, fuck this, fuck me especially.




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