Hello. We’re back with another exciting episode of “Do I think this book I read would/should get a Hugo”.
Martha Wells is another author I’ve become a big fan of over the last several years (although one I’ve apparently never posted about on this blog). I first came across All Systems Red, the first installment in what has become The Murderbot Diaries, back in 2017 and according to Goodreads, actually read the darn thing in April of 2018.
By this point, it had already won an Alex Award, and was on the list of Verge’s Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Novels of 2017, which I suppose is a tad confusing, since it is in fact, a novella. By the end of 2018, Murderbot had won a Hugo, a Nebula, and the Locus Award for best novella.
The hype was real . . .
And completely warranted. Murderbot was a fresh take. We have all seen, read, and built up a healthy fear of autonomous robots. In nearly all instances, they are designed to kill people, or they “go bad” and figure out how to kill people on their own. At their most heroic, they still kill a bunch of people, but not the ones we’re rooting for so that’s good even though we’re still kinda worried that whatever black-box logic has kept them from killing us, will suddenly change, and they’ll start doing what they do best, killing all the humans (also us).
I suppose Murderbot falls into this last category, as it uses all its super advanced equipment, methods, and strategy to save a couple of researchers (mostly by killing things that are trying to kill those researchers), but the book makes the killing machine its protagonist. We get to look inside the black box. As we read, we learn why this particular killing machine is on our side.
Namely that is because it doesn’t want to fail its contract. It doesn’t want to fail its contract because this will make it harder for it to sit around in its repair cube (or really anywhere) and watch its favorite TV show.
This is — not necessarily surprisingly; but refreshingly — incredibly relatable.
Who here has not undertaken extreme measures in the pursuit of laziness? I thought so. And then there are the themes. Trust, free will, what it means to be human (and in later installments: trauma, friendship, recovery and consent) . . . All the important stuff. But all of it through the lens (camera footage?) of our incredibly likeable protagonist.
So you liked the first one, what about the others?
Oh yes. There are three other novellas within the series before we reach the topic of this post (which I will also reach any moment now). All of them are excellent reads which I devoured one after the other, until I was anxiously awaiting the most recent addition.
And this most recent one?
A great read as well, if not quite as good as the others. As this was the first ‘novel length’ Murderbot adventure, I felt myself missing the quick pace of the novellas. Not to say that this book dragged necessarily, but I think the smaller scope of the previous adventures were a key factor in their success. If you have not yet read this book, definitely go ahead and jump it to the top of the TBR pile.
So Hugo then?
Sadly no. Murderbot is by far one of my favorite characters in fiction right now and I will gladly pay whatever money they charge for the next installment (and any after that!), but I think its chances are suffering a bit from the same thing that I mentioned in my Rhythm of War post last week, it’s no longer new. Network Effect is the fifth installment of a series that seems to be showing little signs of slowing down. I believe at least one more novel is going to come out soon, and who knows how many more after that.
Plus, as a novella, Murderbot has already taken home a Hugo. It’s time to share Murderbot . . . SHARE!
I’m just kidding. I don’t think that’s how the Hugo’s should work. If you write several excellent novels, whether one after the other, or in different years, you should not have to relinquish your chances based on past performance.
Murderbot has come a long way since All Systems Red, and has managed to keep all of what won it so many awards back in 2018, and perhaps even tread territory in subsequent installments that would have made it worthy in 2019. But for 2020, for Network Effect, it just didn’t quite get there.
Thanks all! Please leave any comments or insights in the comment section. Looking forward to hearing y’all’s thoughts. Until next time . . .