cover image Artificial Condition

Artificial Condition

Martha Wells., $16.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-250-18692-8

Wells follows the classically tight adventure pacing of All Systems Red with a slightly disorienting shift to self-exploration, making intense moments out of data dumps and matter-of-fact narrative out of fights to the death. Murderbot, a sentient artificial intelligence, is on the lam, hopping cargo transports and hacking security cameras on a quest to discover the truth of its own origin story as the villain of a massacre. Sounds like a rollicking time—which it is, but not in the way one might expect. The real discovery is not about the horrific events Murderbot may have participated in some 35,000 hours ago, but the bonds it never intended to form with beings who were no part of its plan. The most endearing is ART, a wacky cross between 2001’s HAL and Mycroft Holmes, who plays to Murderbot’s Sherlock with acerbic and infinite superiority. The broadening of Murderbot’s experience, however mundane, “make[s] it harder for me to pretend not to be a person,” and the dizzying, inarguable plenitude of personhood is what this dense novella most intimately explores. There’s plenty here to entertain the many fans of the first novella. Agent: Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Literary. (May)