Audiobook Review: The Murderbot Diaries (Novellas 1 - 4)


The Murderbot Diaries (Novellas #1 - 4) by Martha Wells, Narrated by Kevin R. Free.

Martha Wells Murderbot stories have been entertaining sci-fi fans since the first novella - All Systems Red - came out five years ago. At this point there are four novellas, two novels (Network Effect and Fugitive Telemetry), and two short stories ("The Future of Work: Compulsory" and "Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory"). This review focuses on the novellas - which have each earned more than 4 stars from Amazon readers. Each has roughly 10 to 20 thousand reviews. That’s a lot of love. Not to mention the various Hugo and Nebula Awards the series have received.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear, now that I’ve finally gotten around to reading the four novellas that I loved the stories. 

The storylines combine into a single overarching story, and the plots are all pretty basic - standard military sci-fi / action-thriller stuff. What sets the Murderbot series apart is Murderbot himself, who is the first person narrator of all four novellas. He is a “construct”. That means he’s made up in part of robotic machinery, and in part of biological (read cloned human) material. He is not a human augmented with mechanical parts -  at one point in the stories he informs us that his feet have no biological components. 

Rather he’s a purpose-built biological / robotic machine. And his purpose is Security, which may from time to time involve attacking dangerous predators or murdering bad guys. He is a “SecUnit”. 

At some  point in his past this particular SecUnit was part of a mass murder that took place on a mining colony. Afterward he was deactivated by his company and his robotic memory erased. He was subsequently reactivated and put him back into service. His company rents him out as Security for missions to new or unknown bases across space. He still retains some biological memory of the mass murder, but doesn’t have a complete picture of what happened. 

Either at the time of the mass murder, during his deactivation or shortly after, his “governor module” failed. This is a component through which each SecUnit receives orders and upgrades, and which ensures they follow the rules of being a SecUnit. Murderbot chooses not to report the failure and figures out how to manipulate its outgoing signals so the company doesn’t know it has failed. 

Now free of the company’s oversight, Murderbot spends much of his off duty time on the “feed” (apparently the intergalactic equivalent of the internet) downloading and consuming all the latest space soap operas he can. He gives himself the name Murderbot. He also develops quite a snarky attitude, which he works hard not to show to any human. 

In the first book however, he is assigned to a crew of humans who actually seem to care about him, and he slowly starts to develop feelings and emotions toward them, which he finds both confusing and inconvenient in performing his security duties.

It’s those human interactions and Murderbot’s own internal struggle, combined with fast paced action, that move these stories up to another level.

I waited until I’d finished the audiobooks of all four novellas to write this review, but I did post some short reviews for each on GoodReads as I read. I’m providing them below for whatever additional insight you might find. But before your read those, let me sneak in a word for Kevin R. Free’s narration - fantastic!

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1): I'd heard so much about the Murderbot series that my expectations were very high, and they were not disappointed by this first novella. Excellent premise, fast pace, just a great read. I'll be binging the rest of the series! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2): Another excellent novella! The pace here is a little slower than the first one, as Wells takes some time to build more back story for our hero Murderbot. But I am loving the overall story arc of the series, both the plotline and the characters that Wells has given us so far. Can't wait to continue binging my way through these stories! ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3): Murderbot, more or less unwittingly, finds himself acting as a SecUnit for another team at risk from their dealings with the GrayCris corporation. Fast paced action like the first book, and looks to be propelling Murderbot back to Dr. Mensah. On to #4! ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4): The last of the four Murderbot novellas. All four have been fantastic. Great premise, and great characters. In this book the overarching plot finally comes full circle as Murderbot is reunited with his crew from the first novella. While I loved these stories I am going to have to wait a bit to dig into the follow-on novels. Too many other books on my pile to be read! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Borrow or Purchase The Murderbot Diaries novella audiobooks here:

📙 All Systems Red: Borrow from: Libby | Listen through subscription to: Audible | | B&N Audiobooks, or buy from:  Google Play |  

📘 Artificial Condition: Borrow from: Libby | Listen through subscription to: Audible | | B&N Audiobooks, or buy from:  Google Play |   

📗 Rogue Protocol: Borrow from: Libby | Listen through subscription to: Audible | | B&N Audiobooks, or buy from:  Google Play |   

📒 Exit Strategy: Borrow from: Libby | Listen through subscription to: Audible | | B&N Audiobooks, or buy from:  Google Play |   

Title: All Systems Red

Audio Publish Date: October 20, 2017

ISBN-13: 9781501977824

Title: Artificial Condition

Audio Publish Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN-13: 9781501977831

Title: Rogue Protocol

Audio Publish Date: August 7, 2018

ISBN-13: 9781501999796

Title: Exit Strategy

Audio Publish Date: October 2, 2018

ISBN-13: 9781501999994

Author: Martha Wells

Narrator: Kevin R. Free

Publisher: Recorded Books

Publisher’s List Price: Not provided (Recorded Books does not sell direct to the public)