Review: Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2) by Martha Wells [audiobook]

Artificial Condition_Martha Wells.jpg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Murderbot Diaries has thus far been an excellent introduction to the work of Martha Wells, a new-to-me author, and she is proving to be quite adept at serialized story-telling. Artificial Condition picks up shortly after the finale of All Systems Red, with the murderbot operating as an independent free-agent.

As a formerly-corporate owned SecUnit cyborg, Murderbot's memories were routinely purged, although a few still linger, particularly those surrounding the murder of 57 miners in the wake of a malfunction. Murderbot wants answers, and its journey back to the RaviHyral mining facility sees it taking passage aboard a bot-operated research vessel and getting hired on as a security consultant for a team of scientists.

As with All Systems Red, Artificial Condition presents a pretty basic story enlivened by the character of Murderbot itself. In the prior episode, it was Murderbot's interactions with its human employers that provided a lot of that book's high points. Here, much of the fun lies in seeing how Murderbot relates and responds to the shuttle bot operator, ART (yes, ART is an acronym, but to reveal what it stands for spoils the fun of discovery!).

Wells does a fantastic job bringing the construct of Murderbot to life, exploring the various facets of its artificial intelligence. While Murderbot is a machine first and foremost - and the brief action scenes illustrate quite well the proficiency in violence for which it was built - it still presents an intriguing amount of psychological depth and self-awareness, filtered through a pretty unique perspective.

Returning to narrate is Kevin R. Free, who manages a livelier performance after a fairly monotone reading in the previous go-round. As far as listening experiences go, I haven't found his narration thus far to be completely engrossing, and while I'm not familiar with his work outside of The Murderbot Diaries I do appreciate the growth exhibited by Free over the course of these two novellas. Artificial Condition presents a better narration than book #1, but it's still sadly easy to mentally disengage from and let your mind wander.

Although this audiobook wasn't entirely successful in holding my attention and consistently captivating me, I still found myself enjoying it, even if I did have to rewind a few sections to see what I had missed during moments of distraction. Murderbot is a great, and surprisingly relatable, character, and Artificial Condition helps push the overarching narrative a little bit further forward. Now, onto Rogue Protocol!

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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