reviewed System Collapse by Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries, #7)

Martha Wells: System Collapse (Hardcover, 2023, Tordotcom) 4 stars

Am I making it worse? I think I'm making it worse.

Following the events in …

System Collapse

4 stars

I deeply enjoyed System Collapse--it was a nice followup book to the events of the previous one and I don't think could stand alone. Murderbot has certainly been through a lot, but the last book was particularly intense and it makes sense that there's lasting effects from it. It felt like a smaller and more internally-focused book with less snark and more trama, but I am here for that.

To me at least, Murderbot and its series feels like the embodiment of vulnerability avoidance: handwaving, the first few books seemed like Murderbot coping with learning it cared and people caring about it; Network Effect was about """relationships"" (with ART and 2 and 3); this book in particular explored the vulnerability of trauma and being partially human (or at the very least having some fleshy parts). I think it helps to better situate Murderbot as a construct--not a bot, not human, but somewhere in between with the problems of both.

On the surface, this certainly looks like a shift in Murderbot's competence. (It's certainly a shift in its self-perceived competence; Murderbot both seemingly does a good job while also beating itself up for not being perfect; it's hard to see past the narrative bias.)

Previous Murderbot dealt with situations and humans out of its control (still does but used to too), but in this book there's an extra struggle of coping with its own [redacted]. Given that it has people around it that care, it also has to deal with the shame of these people covering for it too. Dr. Mensah dealing with her own trauma during the last book felt like a nice foreshadowing here for what Murderbot is going through here.

Bonus joy moments: * the documentary! * ART being a jerk to both Iris and Murderbot * ART and Holism butting heads