Book Review: The Murderbot Diaries


The Murderbot Diaries is a series by Martha Wells. I would say it is in the Sci-Fi genre but also teen angst and also whatever genre the movie Gladiator is in.

To preface this review, I have only read the first 3 novels in this series (there are 7 books at the time of this writing). I also read this in an extremely busy period of life where I would read 1-3 pages at a time at night before falling asleep.

So with that caveat, I can admit that I didn’t love these books. Murderbot, the main character, is an anxious cyborg who just wants to watch TV all day, but has to work and go on adventures and save their human friends and defeat foes in epic battles using badass technology embedded in their body and mind.

In this space-travel filled future, gender is super fluid and polygamous marriage and partnership is common. Many humans are technologically “enhanced” in various ways. It’s a bit of an optimistic Neuralink-maximalist imagining of what access to computers in our brains will be like. There is a sentient robo-spaceship that seems well aligned with the goals of humans and Murderbot, which is cool.

I genuinely liked the battle scenes, which would end after Murderbot had creatively doled out destruction, often getting seriously injured itself. The books seemed to alternate between these battles and long, drawn-out world and relationship building sections with a lot of exposition and peering into the mind of Murderbot as it reluctantly goes through life.

I was speaking with a friend about the series, and I realized that I think the reason I didn’t like reading from the perspective of the Murderbot character is that they are fairly relatable in ways I’m sensitive to right now. My enjoyment of human interaction is fairly narrow in terms of energy availability and personality clashes, and I spend a lot of time ruminating on interactions after they happen.

I was reminded of this Anthony Bourdain quote:

There’s a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed and smoke weed all day and watch cartoons and old movies. I could easily do that. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid and outwit that guy.

It’s frustrating to read a character in the first person who struggles with this much more than I do. Please, get back to the sick laser explosions, I would think to myself while reading.

Anyway, Murderbot world is fairly cool and interesting, and I think I’ll enjoy these more at a time in my life where I’m able to read Murderbot’s perspective without having it feel so personal.