Artificial Condition – Martha Wells

 

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What a treat!
I’ve read the first book of « The Murderbot Diaries », « All Systems Red », quite recently and was very excited at the idea of reading the sequels, as this first nevella has been a perfect read for me. I loved the real science-fi vibe, the humanity of the story, with true people, ordinary people – except for the narrator, an artificial person, a security robot, or a murderbot.
I’ve always been fascinated by intelligence non human in fiction: demons, dragons, robots… I love the scenaristic complexities offered by this kind of character, the way it makes the reader ponder about identity and humanity. In « The Murderbot Diaries » series some « bots », made with human DNA and a lot a technology (a mix between android and cyborg) are used as slaves, paying no heed to the fact that they’re clearly as aware as humans. My very old sense of indignation towards any form of injustice was immediately awake and ready to approve all the author efforts to solve this unbearable situation. I read on and was charmed…

The hero(ine) of this series (whom we’ll call Bootie, to make it simple) is a very likeable person, with an endearing personality, very reserved and even shy, but with a delicious dry sense of humour. By nature Botie feels the need to help humans, but not any human: their intelligence helps them to see how people really are, and since the first book, Bootie’s tribulations, around some mysteries, were riveting and made a very pleasurable read.

I particularly appreciate how this kind of exposing of a non human character helps understand some particular human personalities, who are able to like and love other humans but bear contact with difficulties and much prefer to have indirect interactions with other humans: they’re not abnormal and cold, just different and sensitive, and need to be accepted with their differences.

But to come back to this second novella, « Artificial Condition ».
If you’ve loved the first episode, you’re sure to love this one too. The story is very linear, beginning just after the end of « All Systems Red ». If you don’t remember very precisely this first story, and have chosen not to read it again before, don’t worry, the author gives some tips to help the reader. And if you were sorry to see Bootie run away, you’ll see that they don’t forget her crew!
I won’t tell much about this new story, as I don’t want to spoil anybody, but I can just say that Bootie’s gaining a rather Hermionish sidekick, and manages to learn from their personal history. It was a delicious read, entertaining, sweet and fun!

I’m looking forward reading the next novella in the series, « Rogue Protocol » (August 2018), and the next, « Exit Strategy » (october 2018) – which seems to be the last, a shame, I would have love dozen of murderbot diaries…

I recommend this book in particular, and « The Murderbot diaries » in general, to all science-fi readers (and even more) who love a solid context and strong characters development, with no clichés and some dry humor.

Lovers of  Ann Leckie’s Ancillary books will love this series, and also, for instance, enthusiast readers of Lois McBujold’s Penrin § Desdemona’s novellas.

(A review copy (e-galley) of this book was provided by the publisher through netgalley)

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