Friday, August 10, 2018

Review - Rogue Protocol

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3)
by Martha Wells
Date: 2018
Reading level: A
Book type: prose novella
Pages: 160
Format: e-book
Source: library

Who knew being a heartless killing machine would present so many moral dilemmas?

Sci-fi's favorite antisocial A.I. is back on a mission. The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah's SecUnit is.

And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

As much as I hate to say it, this third novella in the Murderbot series is a disappointment. I'm not giving up on the series, but I'm kind of sad that the second and third books have failed to capture the same magic as the first one.

To begin with, the writing in this one is a lot weaker. There are run-on sentences all over the place, comma splices galore that I don't remember being as much of an issue in the first two books. I noticed a few grammar issues, too. Added to that is the subtle change in Murderbot's personality. Yes, it's still snarky and has some good one-liners, but I found it to be way more misanthropic in this installment (at least, on the surface; it may say it doesn't care about humans, but it's not fooling anybody). It almost felt like someone else had written this one, although it may just not have been as tightly edited as the others.

The biggest disappointment, though, was the lack of action. The first third of the book was dry as dust, all setup and observation. And when there was action, everything was resolved way too easily. I didn't really fear for anyone's life. In the first book, there was so much action that Murderbot and its humans nearly bit the dust on multiple occasions. Here, we get flesh wounds and quick recoveries and no real stakes that force us to care. In fact, I kept forgetting exactly why Murderbot was where it was and what it was doing. Since the end of the first book, its plot arc has seemed a bit aimless. Yes, I understand it was trying to find out about its past in the second book, but after that...

I don't know. I don't know why this series seems to be going downhill. The characters are good (especially the robot characters). I really liked Miki and Murderbot's reactions to it. The human characters in the second and third books have been pretty bland for me, though. There are always hints that Murderbot might allow itself to let its guard down and get a little closer, but before any sort of friendship or camaraderie can develop, it always runs away. Yes, it's a pattern for the character, but it's starting to get old. We know by now that Murderbot isn't as emotionless as it says it is, and it's obviously lonely on some level (as much as it would try to deny that). It could be a fascinating psychological study if the author allowed the character to start letting humans into its emotional life. I really hope we'll get some of that in the fourth book, along with a lot more action. It doesn't seem fair to tease the reader with all the adventure and action of the first book, and then expect them to sit through multiple installments of Murderbot walking around, eavesdropping, info-dumping, and being generally boring.

Quotable moment:

I signaled Miki I would be withdrawing for one minute. I needed to have an emotion in private.

Premise: 3/5
Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 1/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 2/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 ladybugs

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