Friday, August 24, 2018

Five recent books that explore the secret lives of robots

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog T.W. O'Brien tagged five recent books that explore the secret lives of robots, including:
That brings us to All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells, this year’s winner of the Nebula and Hugo awards for best novella. The Murderbot universe includes a continuum of sentient beings, from totally artificial robots, to ‘bots that are constructions combining organic and machine parts, as well as augmented humans, and old-fashioned un-augmented ones. The narrator, who calls itself “Murderbot,” is emphatic that it is “bot,” not robot—more specifically, it is an Imitative Human Bot Unit. (As it has no gender or sex-related parts, I am going with “it” for the pronoun.)

The whole book (which has expanded into three additional novellas and an eventual novel or two) is something of a window into the artificial mind; Murderbot, we learn, prefers the future equivalent of a TV binge to interacting with meatbags, which is an all too relatable stance, even for us humans. It has hacked the internal controls intended to restrict its free thought, but usually decides to carry out its prescribed functions anyway, figuring it’s easier to go along to get along.

Case in point: despite its own autonomy, Murderbot innately understands humans are more comfortable interacting with it when it is wearing its armor that covers its organic parts and makes it look like a robot. For this and other reasons (for one, the threat of deactivation), Murderbot guards its private life from the humans for whom it serves as security detail; even for robots, hell is other people.
Read about the other entries on the list.

All Systems Red also appears among Sam Reader's top six science fiction novels for fans of Westworld and Nicole Hill's six robots too smart for their own good.

--Marshal Zeringue