ARTIFICIAL CONDITION by Martha Wells

The second in the Murderbot Diaries series, Artificial Condition continues the story of the  deeply introverted cyborg security unit, or SecUnit, who previously hacked the governor software that forced obedience to human commands, and has illegally gone off the grid, eschewing the safety of a mostly-free life with a sympathetic owner in order to travel on its own. Disguising itself as an augmented human, Murderbot takes off for the mining facility space station where, it understands, it once murdered a group of humans that it was charged with protecting, though its memory of the event has been mostly erased. He/she/it is determined to find out what happened exactly on that planet that was being explored with an eye to terraforming it, and exactly what happened in that massacre on the Company’s mining  site.

I will continue to refer to Murderbot as ‘it’ because it continues to insist it is genderless.  So It manages to hack the various id systems, surveilance systems, etc. and get itself aboard a huge bot-operated transport ship by trading downloaded media (a lot of them space drama series) from Muderbot in exchange for the ride.  During the ride, the transport AI turns out to be far more powerful and intelligent than Murderbot had anticipated. The transport AI, which Murderbot calls ART (short for Asshole Research Transport), is looking for more than just entertainment media. It actually wants to understand and help Murderbot with its quest.  They become friends of sorts, and the transport bot has a whole medical suite and does some work on Murderbot to make it more human-looking.  The Company is looking for him, and scans can sense it is not human by its height and carriage.

Our Unit finally gets himself to a port where he can grab one more ride to the Company’s main planet and go searching in its innards for evidence of what might have happened during to cause that massacre and was it really involved.  He needs documented valid reason for entry to the planet, and manages to get a job as a security unit to some young scientists who need to get to that planet also in order to retrieve some of their work data.

Drama happens, Murderbot gets to see the site of the massacre, more drama happens, Bot works at being more human-like, and while it ends, you just know there is more, and want to read the next Diary Entry.

Again, we have the snarky comments and observations where you can just see the eye-rolling.

Did I really care what an asshole research transport thought about me?  I shouldn’t have asked myself that question.  I felt a wave of non-caring about to come over me, and I knew I couldn’t let it.  If I was going to follow my plan, such as it was, I needed to care.

The two of them argue over whether to make alterations to Murderbot or not.  Finally, Murderbot reluctantly agrees.

It will be simple, ART insisted.  I’ll assist you.   Yes.  The giant transport bot is going to help the construct SecUnit pretend to be human.  This will go well.

A ComfortUnit (a euphemism for sexbot) seems to be trying to kill Murderbot.  The ART says, what does it want?

To kill all humans, I answered.  I could feel ART metaphorically clutch its function.  If there were no humans, there would be no crew to protect and no reason to do research and fill its databases.  It said, “That is irrational.”    I know, I said.  If the humans were dead, who would make the media?  It was so outrageous, it sounded like something a human would say.

I really love Murderbot.  On to the next in the series.

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