I’ve finally gotten caught up on the Murderbot Diaries series of novellas (and one novel), by Martha Wells – after taking far too long to read them. Frankly, I honestly think I should have read the books much sooner.
The novellas and novels follow the title character of “Murderbot” (the name that It chooses to refer to itself as – it also has no gender and prefers the pronoun of “it”, and it is also sex-repulsed) – a SecUnit formerly rented out by a security company that, at the start of the series, has been rented out to a planetary survey team run by the non-corporate governmental entity of Preservation. Murderbot also has hacked the governor module that would fry his brain if he got too far away from his clients, or disobeyed their orders (even if it would lead to its destruction), or any number of things, and frankly would like to spend the majority of its time watching media and not having to engage socially with these obnoxious humans. However, over the course of the series, it gains its freedom after saving the Preservation survey team from being murdered by a corporate entity, goes on a journey of self-discovery to find out some more information about an incident in its past, and determines that there are some humans it wants to stay with and make sure they’re safe (even if it doesn’t want to refer to them as a “family”).
Now, while I am different from Murderbot in the sense that I’m cisgendered and not sex-repulsed, as a person on the Autism Spectrum there is a lot about Murderbot that resonates with me. I’m not great at big long-term social situations – and to a degree, I seek them out because I’m expected to do so to an extent. I don’t go to office holiday parties because I want to – I go because it’s expected to do so to show I’m part of the team. If given the choice, I’d probably prefer to stay home and watch/read/play media of some form. Speaking of which, like Murderbot I rely on watching media (often media I’m very familiar with and have rewatched repeatedly) as a way of managing my stress level, especially as crisis situations get more intense. When I was in a level 2 evacuation zone during the Oregon 2020 wildfires, watching GameCenter CX helped keep me from getting really stressed out and potentially melting down. Probably my big differences are, again, I’m not sex-repulsed (as evidenced by the various fanservice anime and sexually explicit films I’ve reviewed on this blog), and also I enjoy eating and cooking (whereas Murderbot doesn’t have a digestive system, and doesn’t see the appeal in eating).
Of course, there’s also the difference that Murderbot is a SecUnit, and has enhanced strength, regenerative abilities, and takes more of a beating than a human, and its got energy weapons built into its arms. It makes Murderbot a character who resonates in a way that other SF novel characters as an autistic person. Its lived experiences are nothing like mine – but there are core elements of how it interacts with the world that resonates with me, and feels representative. Even better, because Murderbot is also the point of view character and the main protagonist, that makes it even more resonant. Many other characters in other series who are written as being on the Autism-spectrum, or as Autism-coded are supporting characters or part of a larger ensemble cast, and aren’t necessarily point-of-view characters. Murderbot being the protagonist, and the point of view is wonderful.
The larger world of the setting is also tremendously interesting – with some really great worldbuilding, and it’s tremendously fun to see this world through Murderbot’s eyes (either directly or through drones), and its affinity for media also helps provide other perspectives, such as with its descriptions of the shows it’s watching. Its character interactions are also tremendously fun – and it kind of makes me wish there was some form of Murderbot anime in the works (the scene in the first novel – when the PreservationOps team learns that Murderbot has the complete run of The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon in its databanks, and is a passionate fan of it – would look great animated, particularly with some exaggerated anime character expressions).
I absolutely recommend reading these books, if you have not done so already. I especially recommend the audiobooks as well – the reader really nails Murderbot’s internal voice, especially in Network Effect.
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