Rogue Protocol: Can humans and bots be friends?

Reposting to include Jana’s new review.

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells science fiction book reviewsRogue Protocol by Martha Wells science fiction book reviewsRogue Protocol by Martha Wells

Martha Wells’ endearingly grumpy cyborg Security Unit Murderbot returns with a vengeance in Rogue Protocol (2018), the third novella in the MURDERBOT DIARIES series. In Rogue Protocol, Murderbot heads off to Milu, a deserted terraforming facility in space, to investigate the past of a murky group called GrayCris, which we originally met in the first book in this series, the Nebula award-winning All Systems Red. GrayCris appears to be intent on illegally collecting the extremely valuable remnants of alien civilizations. To all appearances Milu is an abandoned project of GrayCris, but Murderbot suspects, based on its online research, that GrayCris may have been secretly using Milu as a cover for its recovery operations for alien remnants. If Murderbot can find proof of these illegal operations on Milu, the legal case against GrayCris will become much more compelling … and perhaps people will forget about a certain SecUnit that has mysteriously gone astray.

As always with its plans, Murderbot thinks it’s going to do this thing all by itself; as usual, a group of humans that desperately needs its help causes a change of plans for our deeply introverted SecUnit. Masquerading as a technologically augmented human security consultant rather than a cyborg, Murderbot find that the bot-driven transport spaceship needs its intervention to mediate conflicts between its passengers (“If you bother her again I will break every bone in your hand and arm. It will take about an hour.”). Once Murderbot reaches Milu, it finds the facility isn’t entirely abandoned: a team of humans, along with two suspicious security consultants and a chipper human-form robot assistant called Miki, are on an excursion to investigate Milu as well. Murderbot scrambles to convince Miki, and through Miki the rest of the team, that Murderbot is authorized to be on the site as additional security help. And then the team is attacked …

Murderbot’s system hacking, strategizing, and enemy ass-kicking talents continue to develop and amaze in Rogue Protocol, and are just a complete joy to read about. Even Murderbot’s interpersonal relationship abilities develop, despite all of its intentions otherwise. Murderbot does a lot of internal grumping about the various shortcomings of humans, bots and other sentient beings, but when they need its help and protection, somehow Murderbot never fails to throw itself into the fray.

Murderbot is also taken aback by the rather childlike bot Miki’s claim of friendship with its human owner, Don Abene … and even more dumbfounded to find that Don Abene considers Miki a friend as well. Murderbot’s interactions with them prompt it to reevaluate its own relationships with humans, especially Dr. Mensah, Murderbot’s legal owner.

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells audiobook review These introspective moments, combined with Wells’ deft hand at creating a believable universe filled with advanced technology, some compelling action, and Murderbot’s dryly humorous voice, make Rogue Protocol a SF novella that’s both fascinating and enjoyable. This is DEFINITELY a series worth reading if you like science fiction … and very possibly even if you’re not generally a SF fan. The fourth novella in this series, Exit Strategy, will be published October 2, 2018.

~Tadiana Jones


Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells science fiction book reviewsI love Murderbot! Kevin R. Free’s interpretation of Murderbot in Recorded Books’ audio edition has really grown on me. 

~Kat Hooper


Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells science fiction book reviewsMURDERBOT by Martha WellsLife just doesn’t get any easier for Murderbot. Every time it gets a job, or a lead on the nefarious GrayCris corporation’s wrongdoings, it keeps having to learn lessons about love and friendship and how it’s simultaneously great and terrible to have the free agency to make choices. Harrumph!

Self-actualization might not be Murderbot’s favorite or most-exercised trait, but I did appreciate how begrudgingly the concept wove into Rogue Protocol’s narrative, especially as Murderbot spends more time with the helper-bot Miki and its friends on the GoodNightLander Independent team as they try to asses the abandoned terraforming station. I also appreciated (see also: “was terrified by”) the survival horror narrative Martha Wells employs in this novella; she pulls out all the stops here, creating a deeply claustrophobic and stress-inducing environment where danger lurks around literally every corner. And the ending — that bittersweetly triumphant ending — did that ever hurt. But now Murderbot’s got a whole new purpose and motivation to bring down GrayCris, and I for one would not be brave enough to stand between Murderbot and any objective. Next stop: Exit Strategy!

~Jana Nyman

Published August 7, 2018. Martha Wells’ Rogue Protocol is the third in the Murderbot Diaries series, starring a human-like android who keeps getting sucked back into adventure after adventure, though it just wants to be left alone, away from humanity and small talk. Who knew being a heartless killing machine would present so many moral dilemmas? Sci-fi’s favorite antisocial A.I. is back on a mission. The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah’s SecUnit is. And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.

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6 comments

  1. Okay. There is no doubt. I MUST read these.

  2. The last of the tetralogy comes out in October, right? Excellent. I’ll be able to binge-buy these for myself!

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