Book Review: Network Effect by Martha Wells
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 5 of The Murderbot Diaries
Publisher: Tor.com (May 5, 2020)
Length: 350 pages
Martha Wells once again shows us why her Murderbot series is so beloved with a new installment. This time though, there’s also extra reason to rejoice, because our favorite serial-watching, cynically cranky rogue SecUnit is back in its first full-length standalone novel, and speaking as fan who has been eagerly anticipating Network Effect ever since its announcement, the book was well worth the wait.
So, what’s a Murderbot to do when its pesky human charges can’t seem to stay out of trouble? Step in and save their hopeless asses again, of course. Even after hacking its own programming to free itself, Murderbot can’t seem to be rid of certain commitments, like once more feeling the need to intervene when its crew’s latest mission goes horribly wrong. However, this time the situation ends up being more complicated and disastrous than anyone could have imagined, involving no less than a brazen kidnapping, a hostile takeover, multiple alien threats, and an unexpected reunion with an old friend.
Well, so much for being left in peace to binge watch the latest soap drama.
To begin, it’s probably no surprise that what makes this series is the character of Murderbot itself. For an artificial intelligence, our protagonist is surprisingly full of heart, yet at the same time, unmistakably non-human. Still, for every machine-like trait it has, there is a perfectly relatable one to balance things out. This, I believe, is the key to the magic behind the series and its successes, because I’m sure most of us have an inner introvert that allows us to see something of ourselves reflected in Murderbot’s thoughts and actions—even if it’s as simple as an addiction to a TV show, or like being extremely annoyed by the human race.
The storyline of Network Effect is also very rich, and if you enjoyed the previous Murderbot Diaries novellas wishing they had been longer or that they had delivered more, then you will be very pleased indeed, not to mention how fans of the second one, All Systems Red, will be receiving an extra treat. Of the four novellas, that one had been my favorite because of a certain character, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled by his return (after a period of panic, that is, when Wells almost ripped out my guts with a devastating plot point before revealing everything was not as they seemed. Which was good, because I would have never forgiven her.)
It really is impressive, when you think about how far this series has come in such a short time. While I loved the novellas, I’ve never made it secret that I much prefer full-length novels because I feel they are more conducive to meaningful story and character development. Certainly, it helped a lot to have the background of the novellas under my belt before heading into this, but I also felt that Network Effect was the book which finally gave Murderbot the breadth and scope it deserved. I’ve been a fan of Martha Wells for a long time now, having discovered her work through Books of the Raksura. Clearly though, she’s found a new niche in sci-fi, and I think what makes her so damn good at it is the nature of the Murderbot series and its protagonist, which allows her to really let loose with her imagination, humor, and passion for adventure.
All in all, if you enjoyed novellas one through four (and I do highly recommend reading those before tackling this one), I see no reason why you wouldn’t love Network Effect as well. It is everything great about those stories, but even more fun, more action-packed, and more intense. Readers will love journeying with Murderbot again in a bigger and wilder adventure guaranteed to leave you craving more. Needless to say, I’m already burning to get my hands on the next one.