System Collapse by Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries #7)

Am I making it worse? I think I’m making it worse.

Everyone’s favorite lethal SecUnit is back.

Following the events in Network Effect, the Barish-Estranza corporation has sent rescue ships to a newly-colonized planet in peril, as well as additional SecUnits. But if there’s an ethical corporation out there, Murderbot has yet to find it, and if Barish-Estranza can’t have the planet, they’re sure as hell not leaving without something. If that something just happens to be an entire colony of humans, well, a free workforce is a decent runner-up prize.

But there’s something wrong with Murderbot; it isn’t running within normal operational parameters. ART’s crew and the humans from Preservation are doing everything they can to protect the colonists, but with Barish-Estranza’s SecUnit-heavy persuasion teams, they’re going to have to hope Murderbot figures out what’s wrong with itself, and fast!

Yeah, this plan is… not going to work. 

YEAR: 2023
LENGTH: 256 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Science Fiction

Queer Rep Summary: Bi/Pan Minor Character(s), Genderqueer/Nonbinary Main Character(s), Ace/Aro Main Character(s). Apologies if I missed some, this series isn't alloheteronormative at all, so labels of any particular queerness are fuzzier and much less important, generally.

*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

The short version is that if you've loved Murderbot for the first six books then this continues the best things from the earlier stories while giving a chance to get acquainted with ART's crew in slightly less dire circumstances (at least for them). I was completely immersed in all the best ways, don't miss SYSTEM COLLAPSE!

As a sequel, this covers the next steps of Murderbot and ART's crew dealing with the colonists whom they met in NETWORK EFFECT. It doesn’t precisely wrap up anything left hanging, but that’s mostly because there wasn't a distinct sense that more follow-up was needed on that planet. The main thing teased was the idea that Murderbot would continue to travel with ART, but in this book they aren't quite ready to begin other journeys. Instead the opening chapters form full link between that story and this one. Because they change locations on the planet, this gets to be a mostly new storyline, despite having ties to a prior entry. Once they knew they had to change locations, it becomes much more about what’s happening now, rather than the group they left behind.

This introduces and resolves the fate of the second colony on the planet. It’s not the last book and it specifically establishes the next thing that Murderbot wants to do in a way that most of the other books really couldn’t. This is a pretty direct follow-up to events in NETWORK EFFECT, and would be much less satisfying for anyone who tried to start here without having read the previous books. Because its direct predecessor, FUGITIVE TELEMENTARY, takes place out of sequence with NETWORK EFFECT and SYSTEM COLLAPSE, technically, I guess you could skip that book, but the rest are essential in terms of plot. All of them are very important for character development. The heart of the story is Murderbot's internal journey of figuring out autonomy and personhood, including how attached it feels to either of those ideas with relation to itself. This means that character establishment is pretty quick in each of the books. Murderbot's whole deal is very understandable from just a few snippets . Its character development happens much more slowly, as figuring out what it wants distinct from, but not necessarily separate from other beings is a long process that has had room to breathe over the volumes. As to the specific story, there was a lot to clean up on the planet after NETWORK EFFECT. Early in this book, ART's crew is made aware of a complication that requires their attention. This complication is significant enough that dealing with it is the focus of the rest of the book.

SYSTEM COLLAPSE has a lot of very cool worldbuilding related to the other colony, but done in a way that reflects those differences through the things that Murderbot cares about, specifically, communication and media. One of my favorite bits is that we actually get some background for one member of ART's crew because there are some ways in which his former training is closer to Murderbot than to his fellow researchers. Those few similarities end up reinforcing the gap between what Murderbot can do and what even the best-trained human is capable of as far as combat and tactics. 

Moderate CW for violence, gun violence, injury detail.

Minor CW for slavery, death.

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Murderbot crouches in a field, looking at a giant multi-limbed robot in the distance, its silhouette fills the sky.


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