Rogue Protocol is the third instalment in the Murderbot Diaries science-fiction, artificial intelligence novella series written by Martha Wells. This is a series that I have been enjoying immensely as Murderbot is one of my favourite characters. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this volume as much as I did the first two, but I still felt it was pretty good in hindsight.
In Rogue Protocol, Murderbot returns, floundering to build a case against the big, bad corporation that is screwy in more ways than one. Meanwhile, people are becoming more worked-up about this missing, rogue SecUnit. (Being vague to avoid spoilers for any previous instalments.)
I don’t know if it’s because I have been reading these books so close to one another, as in I finish one and pick up the next one relatively soon, or if the writing is to blame itself, but I didn’t care for the pacing in Rogue Protocol. That was more than likely the trait that led to a domino effect of my other frustrations with the volume. The pacing went up and down in waves, which created a disconnect between me and what was happening, including Murderbot’s interactions with other people—humans and AI alike. Additionally, the tone and storytelling came off as being rather monotonous to me.
In book one, we have the introduction to our AI protagonist, and the tone has some mystery and an air of suspense. In the second book, the suspense is combined with comical interactions between Murderbot and ART, as well as some action and intrigue with whatever Murderbot has going on in the volume. In this one, there was a distinct lack of mystery and suspense and it caused me to feel bored more often than not. At one point, I remember that I couldn’t wait for the book to be over so I could find something more engaging to read. In the second half, serious shit hits the fan, so to speak, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find it within myself to give a single damn. That feeling is such a disappointing and uncomfortable one for me. I hate feeling that while reading, particularly when I’m reading books that I initially felt tons of excitement for.
Those are my two biggest complaints, and I know they’re unpopular ones, which is okay. Aside from that, one of the facets that I fucking adore with the Murderbot Diaries series as a whole is the exploration of different kinds of artificial intelligences. For example, we have Murderbot itself who is an anti-social, pessimistic dude that can be apathetic yet anxious. Then we meet ART in book two who is salty and blunt. Then here, we have another AI who is so genuinely kind and friendly that no matter what happens, expressing anger towards it feels inhumane, even if it deserves being yelled at. This creativity with sentient AIs is what drew me further into the series and it will be the thing that shoves me towards reading the last book. If you enjoy sentient AI narratives, then it’s honestly worth it to check out these books for that alone.
Murderbot becomes more and more humane with each addition and that is something else that I have been quite addicted to. It’s growth as an individual and its development in terms of social interactions, given its loathing for social interactions, is so captivating and would make an excellent case study for the subject. It is equal parts entertaining, empathetic, and contemplative with its personal mission, the people it meets, and the longing it feels that I just wanted to reach out and give it a hug, even though the gesture would basically be lost on it.
Lastly, the finale was emotional. I did not see that finale coming and it was the one thing in the whole one-hundred-fifty-some-odd pages that had my full attention for an extended period of time. That ending gave it the dimension and atmosphere that it was missing. It sucks that I had to wait so long for it to happen though. With that said, I’m curious to see how this will affect Murderbot’s persona moving forward.
All in all, Rogue Protocol was not my favourite book in the series so far, in fact it was my least favourite, however, I’m still looking forward to seeing everything wrap up in the final upcoming volume that I have sitting on my shelf right now. Even with its shortcomings, I still recommend it. As I mentioned earlier, the AI bits are brilliant.
3.5 friendships outta 5!