Book Review: Network Effect by Martha Wells

In this first full-length novel featuring Murderbot, the violent but endearing rogue AI is back for more adventures to delight "all the stupid humans"

Book Review: <i>Network Effect</i> by Martha Wells

After four novellas in her Murderbot Diaries series, College Station-based science-fiction writer Martha Wells now offers a novel-length installment about the most endearing violent rogue AI you'll ever meet. Science-fiction fans have fallen wildly in love with the narrative voice of these books about a robot whose struggles are a not-so-subtle metaphor for what it's like to live with severe social anxieties. That Network Effect also features an interplanetary setting in which corporate interests have taken over seemingly everything and the good guys are trying to fight back is just icing on the space cake.

Readers who haven't found a science-fiction story to their liking before: I know we nerds keep saying this, but you really need to try this one. It's about a murderous robot who hacks its own governor module and turns rogue. But instead of going around killing people, all it really wants to do is sit at home and watch entertainment serials. (That sound you just heard was all of Gen X crying out, "I feel seen!") Sure, there's lots of names and planets and technical stuff, but you can let those wash over you. Murderbot doesn't care. Why should you?

Network Effect brings Murderbot back in touch with ART (which stands for "Asshole Research Transport," the hilariously sentient transport vessel from volume two), and adventures ensue. For that reason, despite the press surrounding Network Effect promising otherwise, it's helpful to have read the first two books of the series before tackling this one. At least read the Wikipedia page.

Side note: Murderbot's steadfast human supporter Dr. Mensah, leader of her planetary council, feels an awful lot at this moment in time like Jacinda Arden in space. So if you appreciated that video that Prime Minister Arden shot at home after putting her toddler to bed, try the Murderbot Diaries next. Like Murderbot, you'll find the escape soothing enough to help you deal with, as it likes to call us, all the stupid humans.

Network Effect

by Martha Wells, 352 pp., $26.99

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More science fiction
Gift Guide 2015: Fiction by Austin Authors
Bats of the Republic
An arcane tapestry of alternate cowboy history and steampunk sci-fi in a multitextured graphic package

Wayne Alan Brenner, Dec. 11, 2015

Books on Wheels
Books on Wheels
5th Dimension Books and Unbound: Sin Fronteras bring back the bookmobile and bring the books to you

Jessi Cape, July 10, 2015

More Arts Reviews
<i>The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid</i> by Lawrence Wright
The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid
In his account of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the New Yorker writer reports the killers are off the leash

Michael King, June 4, 2021

<i>One Last Stop</i> Is an Electrifying Queer Timeslip Romance
One Last Stop Is an Electrifying Queer Timeslip Romance
The author of Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston, unveils her second novel

Rosalind Faires, June 4, 2021

More by Elizabeth Cobbe
Sad Girls Productions’ <i>So Lucky</i>
Sad Girls Productions' So Lucky
This world premiere from a brand-new company lacks polish, but it does honor its community’s stories

March 20, 2020

Review: <i>Come From Away</i>
Review: Come From Away
Tale of ordinary people embracing strangers is extraordinary

Feb. 19, 2020


science fiction, Martha Wells, Murderbot

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle