Two Novellas You Should Read as the Weather Turns Cold, and Your Mind Turns to Murder
Diese (englischsprachige) Kolumne ist nichts für schwache Nerven, denn hier wird geflucht und diskutiert: Nicolette Stewart von bookpunks.com liest alle Kurzromane von Tor.com. Heute: The Murderbot Diaries.
Every year when that first chill of fall hits the air, my mind turns to murder. Purely fictional of course. No, don't look in that closet. No, never mind that smell. That pounding noise that sounds like someone trapped in the closet is trying to get out? Ha! Absolutely crazy the sounds pipes in these old houses make! Let us retire to the killing umm... murderbotsanctuary ... oh ...death... I mean... living room, and discuss two bloody fantastic novellas I highly recommend you read right now, before its too late. *cue dramatic villain's laughter, cue thunder, cue lightning, cue book review*
Meet Murderbot, Your New Favorite Robot
You hear that a book is going to be about a bloodthirsty Murderbot, and you might find yourself expecting certain things. You might find yourself expecting a novella filled with bloody, ruthless fast-paced robot-on-human violence. And you'd be right. But All Systems Red, the first novella in Martha Wells Murderbot Diaries series, is a hell of a lot smarter, and a hell of a lot funnier, and the Murderbot in question is going to be a heavy-weight contender for the top of your Favorite (Cranky) Robots of Science Fiction List.
All System Red's first line tells you almost everything you need to know. "I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites." Only almost though, because while it packs a lot of world and character building into one line, it doesn't mention that Murderbot is—SURPRISE!—already a mass murderer. But who cares anyway? Ho hum, fuck that human noise, let's watch the entertainment feed.
This Murderbot—an amalgamation of cloned organic material and robotic elements—does not want to talk to humans. This Murderbot does not want to look at humans, or have humans look at them. This Murderbot has intense anxiety (maaaybe due to the fact that it has been abused, tortured, and a slave to humans its entire life, even though it is very clearly basically a human), and it just wants to hurry up and half-assed its way through another security job so it can watch the soaps already. It is fucking brilliant.
Murderbot is an incredibly sympathetic character, especially if you like 'em misanthropic and persnickety, which is how I like both robots and people. And around this incredible character, Wells spins a page-turning mystery that propels the plot via suspense, betrayal, it-might-be-a-sandworm attacks, and intergalactic intrigue. I could not put this book down. When I finished I immediately read its sequel Artificial Condition. Then I pined for book three (Rogue Protocol, out now) and book four (Exit Strategy, out this October).
Trust me, you do not want to miss this series. If you do not trust me, trust Hugo voters, who awarded All Systems Red the 2018 Hugo for Best Novella. Your fall reading pile needs these books.
Meet Molly Southbourne, Whose Clone Is Trying to Kill Her
Once you pick up the pieces of your broken soul—broken, because you've now read every Murderbot book there is on this timeline, and you are in severe withdraw—consider Tade Thompson's 2017 novella, The Murders of Molly Southbourne. At the center of the novella is a highly original concept—one whose implications I still find myself contemplating from time to time, months after finishing it. Whenever Molly bleeds, a new, identical Molly springs up in her place. Sometimes friendly at first, the Mollys all have one thing in common: they will eventually try to kill her. So she must not bleed.
But of course she does. She's human, and fallible as such, and a woman, her monthly blood an incredible burden. She tries to follow the rules, tries to bury and bleach the remnants away, to keep another Molly from spawning. But she grows up, moves out, makes mistakes, gets the flu, takes someone home, misses a spot—the usual human coming of age activities. Tension abounds, as does violence, and the result is another fast-paced mystery with expertly constructed tension.
But The Murders of Molly Southbourne is working with far more intricate tools: this is not just tension and punching and murder for the sake of a cheap thrill (as much as I love those). By combining the timelessness of literature's doppelgänger archetype with a unique and uniquely organic take on cloning, Thompson roots his tale both in the genre's historical canon, and its up-to-the-minute present, spanning a bridge between the two that lends the tale a feeling of timelessness, anchoring it with historical weight. It also has the effect of making the story feel both horrifyingly familiar and terribly, terribly foreign. It will come as no surprise to you then to hear that The Murders of Molly Southbourne was nominated for the 2017 BSFA Award, the 2018 Shirley Jackson Award, and the 2018 Nommo Award.
While We're on the Subject
If you have opinions about great cranky robots, murder plots, clone stories, novellas, or great places to hide the body, I invite you to stop by @bookpunks on Twitter and tell me all about it.
This column was brought to you by the band Grandaddy, whose entire musical catalogue is about cranky robots, more or less. Listen here.
Tor.com ist nicht nur das führende Onlinemagazin für Science Fiction und Fantasy in den USA, sondern auch ein unabhängiger Verlag für Novellen. Welche man davon wirklich gelesen haben sollte, verrät dir Nicolette Stewart in ihrer Kolumne – auf Englisch!