I’d heard nothing but good about this novella and the author, so treated myself with a hoarded voucher – and I’m very glad I did…
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern. On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.
I love the snarky, cynical voice of the android protagonist, whose sharp-edged narration is in response to a previous traumatic incident, which has led to it calling itself Murderbot. Wells has managed to nail the weary acceptance of a life of drudgery and mistreatment – it is genuinely shocking when it casually mentions that some of the groups it has guarded have instructed the SecUnits shepherding them to fight each other. So it is very taken aback that this particular group of humans insist on treating it as a sentient being with feelings – and continue to do so. I also like the fact its hard-boiled façade abruptly disappears when it is looking after a badly injured scientist.
Wells’ narration is both skilful and engrossing as the troubling events start stacking up into a full-blown emergency. And this disillusioned, basic-model SecUnit is all that is keeping a frightened band of scientists alive in the face of overwhelming odds… The steady increase in tension is very well handled and I became engrossed in this memorable colony adventure.
My biggest grumble is that I wanted more – and it is an abiding problem I have with most novellas. Just as I am fully immersed into the world and the story-telling, it all comes to an abrupt end far too soon.
Highly recommended for science fiction fans – especially those who enjoy colony planet adventures.