Murderbot Diaries not quite winning me over

I started The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells, a series of stories starring a deadly security cyborg with a heart and a glitched “governor module” — so he’s a free agent, who seethes with discomfort around humans but also, obviously, cannot resist them. Especially their media. (He binge-watches episodic dramas. Cute.)

The big idea here is obviously that the “robot” is not remotely robotic, but thoroughly and messily human: a neurotic, awkward, conflicted, misanthropic loner. His only emotionally important non-human trait is that he’s absurdly dangerous. Framing his psychological traits as non-human is a lovely fantasy for the many humans who share them. I am sure many an emo teen has stalked around the halls of their high school thinking, “I am like a murderbot. Humans! O how I hate them! And yet love some of them. Sometimes. But reluctantly!”

I started the series, but unfortunately I am ambivalent about continuing. The “pilot” episode, the long short story “All Systems Red,” was delightful — I giggled throughout, and it that was worth every penny of my $3.99 CAD.

The first novel, Artificial Condition, was less charming and super short for a $12.99 novel. It delivered significantly less chuckle per buck. I should be the last person to resent a writer earning a decent living, and I probably wouldn’t if I’d actually been more entertained. But a dangerously high percentage of words were devoted to exposition about hacking ThisSystem and ThatSystem (a lot of camel-casing in this future, and a lot of systems). The story was too dependent on Murderbot’s not-super-interesting need to constantly compromise all the half-arsed AI around him. And, crucially, the expositional tedium wasn’t mitigated by any significant advancement of Murderbot’s obvious emotional trajectory: his journey to better relationships with hoomans!

Reckon I’ll try one more Murderbot novel, though, out of “professional curiosity” if nothing else (says the guy who has not actually written any novels himself).