Book Club - The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Book Cover

The Murderbot Diaries came up a surprising number of times recently across several conversations among different people on non-consecutive occasions. One person cited it in the course of a debate. Much like with anime, there's always a reason when people keep talking about a work.

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn't a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied 'droid -- a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as "Murderbot." Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is watch Netflix.

This isn't a single novel but a series of works. We're both reading them in chronological order, and will keep you appraised of how far we've gotten as GeekNights goes on. So far there's quite a bit to recommend it.

As of this moment I have read 3.9 murderbots. Effectively speaking, 4 murderbots.

These books are literally 1-sitting each. They take me an average of 2.5 hours to read. Movie-length.

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I have read 1.5. But I was waylaid by COVID and business. I expect to have read the majority of them by the time we’re back from PAX.

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I think this was discussed in the general book thread, but Murderbot is essentially a novella priced at the level of a large novel and while I have paid these prices repeatedly and enjoyed the books its still a value proposition leaving me feeling like I’ve overpaid.

I paid $0. At the library.

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Yeah I use Libby via Philadelphia Library as much as I can, but I was reading them all at release they came out they always happened to come out in a slump period for releases I was interested in. Nobody put a gun to my head, but it still felt like a premium price for how much story I got.

On the one hand, I agree. You can get a brand new hardcover of The Satanic Verses for < $18, so > $15 for just one hardcover novella is way overpriced as far as apples to apples.

On the other hand, maybe it’s not the murderbot diary that is overrpriced, but the other books that are underpriced.

The most common discussion is always how do we pay for art. What is the model?

But if we’ve already decided how, the question of how much becomes even more challenging. Should it be priced based on what people are willing to pay? Based on what it cost to produce? Based on quantitatively how much entertainment it provides? Based on the subjective quality of the entertainment provided? Should audience size affect the price? Should a bigger audience mean a higher price because more demand, or a lower price because more customers means costs can be recouped with more smaller purchases?

If we pay for something we don’t like, that’s easy to regret if we paid anything at all. But if we like something, it’s tough to compare prices to the other things we also like.

Maybe someone enjoys a book for $10. They also fucking love a Zelda game for $60. How can you compare the value of one Zelda game vs. 6 books? If you had to pick just one or the other…

I also got my full money’s worth when borrowing the Murderbot audiobooks from the library. Except for story five, which is a full novel length book, where I would happily have paid money to get a MUCH SHORTER story.

I mean, I’d been trained by the previous four novellas to not actually care or get too invested in the human characters, as they were only there for a short time. Then in the novel, the characters just kept hanging round for hours and hours and hours of story, and I hadn’t ever bothered to learn their names or put any effort into remembering who was who. And one of them had a name that sounded like Rati and another that sounded like Arati… and some of them turned out to be important later in the novel and I still didn’t have any way to picture what they looked like or what their characters were like.

I know the novel is (probably?) meant to be an examination of neurodiversity or whatever, but any effort to explain away the bad writing just felt like an excuse.


Why not books too.

For real. Portal took me about 3-4 hours. Portal 2? I never finished it. I got about 6 hours in and it just felt like a drag. I don’t even know how long the game is overall. Maybe I was one “puzzle” away from the end? I’ll never know!

Same with Murderbot story 5. Just BE OVER ALREADY!!!

Just got “Network Effect” and “Fugitive Telemetry” from the library.

“Network Effect” is the big one, and is volume 5. It’s 350 pages.
“Fugitive Telemetry” is volume 6, back to the novellas again. 168 pages.
So really, Network effect is basically 2x the size of the other books.

Apparently there are also some extra short stories that were published in magazines and other places that I will hunt down.

I borrowed the ebook of Murderbot 6/Fugitive Telemetry from the library, got about 8 pages in and had to stop reading because i was so annoyed by the writing (and by the constant parentheses), (sometimes followed by another parenthesis).

Time for the audio version!

Which after listening for 30 minutes, I made a bookmark, and discovered loads of previous bookmarks!

I have no memory of this, but apparently I borrowed the same audiobook in August last year, and listened to the whole thing. Seriously don’t remember any of it!

For some reason I didn’t track that I’d listened to this novella on Goodreads, which is weird for me to miss.

Now I’m not sure if I can be bothered spending 4 hours relistening to a story I already know is going to be 100% forgettable!

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