Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Rogue Protocol

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries, #3)

Rogue Protocol is the third of the Murderbot novellas and just might be the best one yet. While the plot is very similar to the first two- our rogue security unit getting in over its head while saving humans it pretends to disdain- this one ratchets up the tension a bit, and the stakes as well. If you've read the first two then you know that Murderbot is on a mission- to find out what really happened with GrayCris corporation, the ruthless company that tried to kill its human clients in the first book.

Some of those answers came in the last novella- Artificial Condition- and here the plan is to go to an abandoned terraforming facility that may have been a front for GrayCris' endeavours. GrayCris is aggressively looking to recover the remnants of an alien civilization and the problem is that it's illegal. Could that be why GrayCris tried to kill Murderbot's clients in the first book? Sure looks like it. Murderbot wants to find proof of GrayCris' guilt to not only hold the company accountable, but also to deflect attention from itself. After all it just wants to watch galactic streaming, and the fact that others are looking for it is not helpful.

The plot here, again, is similar to the last book, where Murderbot also had to infiltrate a rather shady facility, find some information, and then get out. And again humans get pulled into the mix- in this case an assessment crew sent in to investigate the terraforming facility for possible reclamation. I loved the atmosphere of the facility, by the way, it's a pretty creepy place and the fact that something- weather related, surely- is blocking their signal feeds only makes it more suspenseful. Murderbot as always is resourceful, funny, and surprisingly caring toward the humans. If this series weren't so good it might get a little old to have this plot point repeated, more or less, but the objective here, as well as the execution, are different enough that it works.

"I'd seen the storm through Miki and the humans' cameras in the corridor on the way to the bio pod, but seeing it with my own eyes, no interface to interpret it, was different. The clouds were like a constantly moving structure, colors not so much swirling as in slow, ponderous motion. It was immense, and wrong, and terrible and beautiful all at the same time."

I have to say too that the human crew grew on me, just as in the previous installments. In a world of ruthless corporations and killer bots, Martha Wells shows us that there are good people too, and Murderbot, in spite of itself, feels compelled to help them. Why? That's a central question of the series, of course. Murderbot just wants to be left alone- right? Well, yeah. Except... not exactly? It turns out that Murderbot may want social interaction after all, just like people do. Just maybe limited engagement and then lots of streaming. Seriously though, the introduction of Miki in this installment is another reason to read this. I loved Miki.

Miki is a human-form bot with a unique relationship to the head of the assessment crew. It considers itself a friend to Don Abene, and Murderbot is astounded to learn that Abene seems to share that feeling! In fact Abene treats Miki with the respect and love she would show another human. And Miki itself is funny, naive, trusting, and thereby makes a perfect counterpoint to Murderbot, who is rather more cynical and jaded. I thought that Miki, like ART (asshole research transport) in the last one, gave us a wonderfully unique perspective on Wells' universe.

Speaking of which, I mentioned this in my review of Artificial Condition, but clearly there is a lot more to the bots in Wells' setting. Not only has Murderbot essentially hacked itself to gain its freedom, but you have AI's like ART running around, more or less sentient, but also units like Miki that clearly have feelings, and we get more hints in this story that this is widespread. Again we see units displaying emotions like irritation or anger, emotions that are not compatible with just being a goal- directed unit. I'm getting the distinct impression that emotion and self- awareness are much more common in the AI community than the humans of Wells' universe realize.

Rogue Protocol is another home run story and I absolutely can't wait for the next one. There are hints that things may be coming to a head in the GrayCris situation, so without getting spoilerish I will say that I think the next book will be a must- read! I will of course be here for it. This one has a fabulous mix of atmosphere and humor, and the series shows no sign of slowing down.  


  1. I was going to skim so I wouldn't be spoiled but I couldn't resist. And you didn't really spoil anything! Whew

    I can't wait to read this one. I think Murderbot is a killer with a marshmallow center for certain humans lol

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    1. I tried really hard not to spoil! And I think you'll be surprised- there's a lot going on. :) I agree with you- I like how you said that- he's all marshmallow gooey inside for humans- otherwise why keep helping them? I can't WAIT for the 4th one.

  2. I read the first one over the weekend and have Artifical Condition along with this one sitting on my shelf to read in the next week or so. This sounds really good, Greg!

  3. Yeah, I do like how she's been using other AI characters as a way for Murderbot to learn more about what it means to be human. It sounds paradoxical, but it totally works!

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

  4. I didn't read this because I still have to read the first one, but thanks for sharing your review and reminding me that I need to read it. 👍

  5. I have these saved in my cart. I can't wait to get started! I'm thinking a movie might be in order later. Sure would be cinematic!

  6. Every time I see a Martha Wells book on your blog I think that I should give her a chance! These books sound amazing and the cover is gorgeous!

  7. Well Murderbots! I am not a scifi fan but after having read Lifel1k3 I have now an open mind and your review is very convincing Greg! Sophie @bewareofthereader

  8. I really need to start this series! I own the first book, so I have no excuse... I already want to read the next one after reading what you said, but I think I should start from the beginning, lol.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

  9. oh yes everyone is reading and loving this one!

  10. You are so right about how the plot would feel stale in literally ANY other series! I get so nervous before I read them, but then always end up loving them! Like "oh no what will we do without ART!?" and then BAM, Miki shows up. Martha Wells sure has a knack for making me give a shit about random sentient machines in a VERY short time span. Great review, I am so excited for the 4th one. That reminds me to bug Val to send it to me like she promised...

  11. Well crap Greg..this sounds stellar which means you've added 3 books to my pile. Thankfully their novellas.

  12. This sounds like fun! I do love me some sci fi. Great review!

  13. I'm glad to see you enjoyed this novella just as much as the last couple. It may have had similarities to the other two but you seem to have really enjoyed it anyway. The entire world sounds so interesting and the fact another robot is introduced is really cool. I never really knew what the books were about but now I'm thinking this is some sci-fi I need in my life.