Review: Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

  • On: 22nd Aug 2023
  • Category: Reviews

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells, first published 2018

The third entry in The Murderbot Diaries series, Rogue Protocol, is another short and straightforward story centred on Murderbot, the media-obsessed cyborg. We continue the story shortly after the events of Artificial Condition, with Murderbot still lying low, masquerading as an augmented human, posing as a security consultant aboard a transport. Arriving at a barely inhabited station, Murderbot scans the news feed and sees that Dr. Mensah (whom we met in All Systems Red) is under increased scrutiny as she calls for an investigation against GrayCris. People are also questioning where the Dr’s SecUnit is, given its role in events on DeltFall and the role it might play in any pending investigations.

Murderbot, of course, would rather remain hidden and anonymous, so decides to help Dr. Mensah, but finding evidence of GrayCris’s misdeeds – if the investigation can quickly and efficiently be concluded, the interest in Murderbot’s whereabouts and Dr. Mensah will cease – or so the cyborgs logic goes.

It decides to go to Milu, an abandoned terraforming project which has GrayCris’s touch all over it, and so decides to stow away aboard another transport. Murderbot’s plans are disrupted, however, when some human passengers also board the transport, inevitably getting into trouble, and of course, our cyborg protagonist can’t help but protect its accidental clients.

Much like the previous two entries, Rogue Protocol is also a short and sweet story that maintains a steady pace throughout. I didn’t think it brought much new worldbuilding to the table, which was a shame, but the characterisation of Murderbot and the humour surrounding its actions with others continues to be the star element of these stories.

The most interesting dynamic in this story is between Murderbot and Miki, a childlike bot belonging to one of the humans. Where in Artificial Condition, Murderbot’s synthetic companion is ART, a powerful and capable ship AI, in Rogue Protocol, Miki is innocent and pet-like (by Murderbot’s reconning) and unprepared for danger or combat – which creates a great contrast to the previous story. In both stories, the companion AI provides a contrast to Murderbot, and the relationships serve to further the cyborg's exploration and understanding of itself.

I once again listened to an audiobook version of the story with the same narrator as before. As I noted in my previous reviews, a fairly monotone delivery is maintained throughout the story, which suits the likes of Murderbot and Miki, but is ill-suited to the human characters but as with Artificial Condition, most of this story dealt only with Murderbot and its interactions with other bots, so this issue was less problematic than it was in book one.

Overall, Artificial Condition is worth reading, and I enjoyed it about on par with book two. I look forward to Murderbot’s continued adventures in book four – Exit Strategy!

Background image by Casey Horner on Unsplash