Artificial Condition
by Martha Wells
Tom Doherty, 2018

Artificial Condition is a far-future science fiction novella, and the second book in The Murderbot Diaries series. The first book is All Systems Red; as this series gives no external indication as to what book fits where in the series, I accidently read Artificial Condition first. I found the book quite good, but I suspect it is best to read them in order.

Murderbot (as e refers to emself) is a security android with a problem. E's just not entirely sure what the problem is. It might be that e apparently went rogue and killed a bunch of people (e's had eir memory wiped since, but it still feels like a problem). It might be that e was bought and emancipated by a wealthy client, which somewhat derails eir previous life plans, such as they were. It might be that e ran away from eir benefactor, leaving em in an uncertain legal position. Or it might just be that most people see em as a 'murderbot', and that's not likely to change. Any way you look at it, the solution is pretty much to keep running and to distract emself by binge-watching old TV shows.

But, as long as e's running... e might as well stop by the planet where e went rogue, and see if e can pick up any clues. On the way, e meets a number of beings who are willing to help em in exchange for various services; which is good, because e needs a lot of help. It turns out that e doesn't really know how to act human, from how to breath like you're asleep during regeneration cycles to how to tell a human that they are doing something dumb and really need to listen.

Despite Murderbot refering to emself as a murderbot, e's a very sympathetic character, and almost never murders people. The story is an interesting mix of sci-fi techno-thriller and heartwarming story of strangers coming together to help each other in an uncaring universe, à la The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. The two minor downsides to the story are a bit of Deus Ex Machina in Murderbot stumbling into an unreasonably powerful partnership, and a perhaps slightly too strong dose of technobabble. Regardless, this is still a fun, short tale, likely to appeal to a wide range of science fiction fans.


The next novella in the series will be Rogue Protocol, due to come out August 7, 2018.