Book Series Review: The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells

Book Series Review: The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells

 

All Systems Red Artificial Condition Rogue Protocol Exit Strategy

Science Fiction Series: The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells

Winner of Hugo, Nebula, Alex, and Locus Awards

 

Sometimes all a bot wants to do is watch its videos. You know, kick back, have some “me” time, alone, away from all humans, and just watch hour after hour of mindless entertainment. No small talk, no pretending interest in human things, no playing nice. Just binge watch hour after hour after hour of pointless videos with bad acting and poor dialog and forget the rest of the world.

 

That can be hard to do when you are a programmed serial killing bot trying to escape a partially forgotten–rather, erased–past.

 

SecBot, short for Security Bot, is an artificial construct. Part organic, part mechanical, designed to provide security to humans in hostile conditions. Prevent them from being killed by hostile life forms. Try to prevent them from killing each other. SecBot is not human, though it looks very similar to humans. It is fully programmable. It is not supposed to feel emotions (or at least be affected by them), it is not supposed to be able to override its programming, it is definitely not supposed to be able to choose its own path.

 

Oops.

 

Murderbot is a SecBot that was on a mining expedition when something happened. All of the humans were killed. The how is pretty straightforward: SecBot killed them. The “why” is a mystery. Most of those records were deleted. Only the organic, partially human, memories remain. They are confused, fragmented, lacking context and connection. But Murderbot does not want to kill humans unnecessarily, and it is sure that it was not supposed to kill all of the miners. So Murderbot overwrites its own programming to make sure that it is not forced to kill again. It names itself “Murderbot” so it always is reminded of that fact. And it desperately wants to find out how and why things went so bad on the mining planet.

All Systems Red

We meet Murderbot first in All Systems Red. It is on a new security mission, working for the company that it has always worked for, this time guarding a group of planetary explorers. Things start going wrong when a mapping anomaly fails to warn of a hostile native animal. Murderbot saves its people, but that is only the beginning of the challenges facing the group. When a second group of explorers is killed and a third, previously unknown, group appears, it takes every skill Murderbot has acquired both from programming and from its own off-book efforts to keep its people alive. In gratitude, the group’s leader buys Murderbot from the company and sets it free.

Artificial Condition

In Artificial Condition, Murderbot decides to revisit the mining planet where it killed the miners and try to answer the question, “Why?” Receiving help along the way from an ART bot (I’ll let the readers discover for themselves what ART stands for), Murderbot arrives at the planet and is hired as a security consultant for some young researchers trying to recover stolen data. What should have been a simple exchange proves to be anything but simple, and again Murderbot is forced to improvise to keep its clients alive. Completing this mission and getting its information about the events that led to the miners’ deaths creates a series of challenges, but fortunately Murderbot is assisted by the timely help of a SexBot, err, rather, Comfort Assistant Bot. No, not THAT kind of help! Murderbot is not into that.

Rogue Protocol

Murderbot has its answers, and in the process discovers that its clients from the first book are in need of more assistance. In Rogue Protocol, it decides to get some information for them that will hopefully end the corporation behind the planetary debacle. After sneaking aboard a ship bringing security consultants to assist with an investigation, Murderbot is discovered by Miki, a sentient PetBot fully loyal and obedient to one of the investigators. Miki agrees to keep Murderbot’s secret if Murderbot agrees to protect the investigators. When the security consultants prove to be on the side of the company being investigated and not on the side of the investigators who hired them, that job becomes significantly more difficult.

Exit Strategy

Finally, Exit Strategy sees Murderbot reunited with the team it first assisted in All Systems Red. Mensah, the team leader, has been captured by the corporation and is being held for ransom. Murderbot is not going to put up with this nonsense, and intends to rescue Mensah–even after discovering just how cool videos are on the large screen displays of hotel rooms!

 

Whatever you are doing, drop it. Get this series, start reading, move it to the top of your TBR pile and let it take over your life. Murderbot may not want to deal with humans, but trust me, we humans thoroughly enjoy dealing with Murderbot.

 

The entire series is smart, snarky fun. Murderbot is cynical, depressed, even torn between wanting to be more human and not wanting to be anything like those pathetic weak creatures it has to endure. With each novella well under 200 pages, I read through the entire series in just a couple of days. But don’t let the shortness nor the easy style fool you. These are brilliant books, full of truths about humanity that are packaged in the wisdom of a stressed rogue AI bot. The shelf full of awards should be its own indicator, but if not I will simply say it again: The Murderbot Diaries are brilliant.

 

All Systems Red Artificial Condition  Rogue Protocol Exit Strategy

Book Series Review: The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells

Quote: Arnold Lobel on Books

Quote: Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them! How I need them! I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them. — Arnold Lobel

"Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them! How I need them! I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them." — Arnold Lobel

Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them! How I need them! I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them. — Arnold Lobel

For more on Arnold Lobel, American author and illustrator for children, see:  Arnold Lobel — Wikipedia

 

Read books about books:

Booklist: Books about Books for Shared Reading with Children

Book Review: The Library Book, Susan Orlean

Quote: You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.― Madeleine L’Engle

Quote: Reading should nor be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift. – Kate DiCamillo

Book Review: The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean

Book Review: The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean

The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean

Nonfiction: The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean

John LaRoche is described by author Susan Orlean as “the most moral amoral person” she’s ever known. When she first met him he was on trial for leading an expedition into the Fakahatchee swamp to collect rare ghost orchids. LaRoche told the judge, “Frankly, Your Honor, I’m probably the smartest person I know.” Orlean’s story on him and his trial led to this book, The Orchid Thief. Orlean crafts a story that could be a novel (and did become a movie) about an eccentric character in a world that seems to breed eccentricity faster than it breeds the very orchids which attract the fascination and obsession of thousands, in a state which is known for its excesses and odd characters.

 

There was a certain logic to LaRoche’s scheme. Native Americans are allowed to gather endangered species for tribal purposes. LaRoche is not Native American, but he was acting as an agent of the Seminole nation. He worked with three young Seminole members, who did all of the actual work collecting the orchids. LaRoche guided and directed their efforts, but he himself did not even touch the orchids.

 

Furthermore, his stated goal was to clone the orchids, mass producing them so that they were no longer rare. Thus, the pressure on the wild orchids would be removed, the Seminoles would have a ghost orchid gold mine, the legislature would see they had left a hole in the endangered species act and would fix it, and LaRoche would be the hero who made it all happen. And got rich by making it all happen.

 

Things didn’t quite go according to plan, but the plan did intrigue Susan Orlean enough to spend months in Florida with LaRoche. During her time there she also got to know many of the names in the South Florida orchid business, and became very familiar with the state itself.

 

Orlean is a very evocative writer. Her descriptions of wading through the swamp looking for ghost orchids made me want to do two things: go looking for the orchid myself, and go take a shower to wash the grime off. At one point she was so hot that her fingers were sweating. That kind of detail fills the book, giving it a richness that helps you smell the funk of the Fakahatchee, the sweetness of the flowers, the loam of the potting soil in the nurseries she visited. Between the heat and humidity and bugs and water and alligators and snakes and sawgrass and cypress trees and criminals carrying machetes (Orlean confesses she does not like hiking with criminals carrying machetes, even if those machetes are strictly to dissuade snakes from approaching them), Orlean makes multiple valiant efforts to see a ghost orchid in bloom. Frankly, I admire her tenacity. I might have lost my interest somewhere between the bugs and the alligators, long before the machetes.

 

I kept my phone beside me as I read so I could look up the different orchids and bromeliads she describes in the book, and I’m glad I did. Her descriptions are vivid, but I do wish The Orchid Thief came with full-color photos. No doubt that would have made it cost prohibitive, but it still would have been a nice addition to the text. I recommend doing something similar when you read it, and I hope you do read it. Orlean is a wonderful writer, and The Orchid Thief is a wonderful book.

See similar topic: Book Review: Tulipomania, Mike Dash

See by the same author: Book Review: The Library, Susan Orlean

The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean

Book Review: The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean

Quote: Life’s Library, John Green, from Looking for Alaska

Quote: John Green, Looking for Alaska

“Have you really read all those books in your room?”

Alaska laughing- “Oh God no. I’ve maybe read a third of ‘em. But I’m going to read them all. I call it my Life’s Library. Every summer since I was little, I’ve gone to garage sales and bought all the books that looked interesting. So I always have something to read.”

“Have you really read all those books in your room?” Alaska laughing- “Oh God no. I’ve maybe read a third of ‘em. But I’m going to read them all. I call it my Life’s Library. Every summer since I was little, I’ve gone to garage sales and bought all the books that looked interesting. So I always have something to read.” ― John Green, Looking for Alaska

“Have you really read all those books in your room?”

Alaska laughing- “Oh God no. I’ve maybe read a third of ‘em. But I’m going to read them all. I call it my Life’s Library. Every summer since I was little, I’ve gone to garage sales and bought all the books that looked interesting. So I always have something to read.”

― John Green, Looking for Alaska

 

For more about author John Green see http://www.johngreenbooks.com/

Read more books about books and libraries:

Booklist: Books about Books for Shared Reading with Children

Booklist: Books about Libraries for Shared Reading with Children

Book Review: Summer Hours at the Robbers Library, Sue Halpern

Book Series Review: The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman 

Book Review: The Mortal Word, Book 5 of The Invisible Library Series, Genevieve Cogman

Book Review: The Library Book, Susan Orlean

Quote: The only thing you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library. Albert Einstein

Quote: Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation. Walter Cronkite

Quote: Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future. Ray Bradbury

Quote: At the moment that we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold, that magic threshold into a library, we change their lives forever, for the better. It’s an enormous force for good. Barack Obama

 

 

 

Book Review: Martin Rising: Requiem for a King, Andrea D. Pinkney

Book Review: Martin Rising: Requiem for a King, Words by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Illustrations by Brian Pinkney

Martin Rising: Requiem For a King, Andrea Davis Pinkney

Poetry:  Martin Rising: Requiem for a King, Andrea Davis Pinkney

Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Three days later, I turned two years old. I only say that to put my age into the context: Dr. King’s murder has essentially been historical fact for me my entire life. When I began reading Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney (illustrated by her husband, Brian Pinkney), I was 51 years removed from the fact of his death. I knew how the story ended.

 

And I wept. I wept for a man who died when I was a toddler. I wept for a people who lost their shining light half a century ago. I wept for a nation whose conscience was slaughtered on a motel balcony in Memphis. I wept for myself and the loss of a hero I never knew while he was alive.

 

Martin Rising is so many things. The standard words we use for poetic works all apply: powerful, elegant, majestic, etc. Pinkney’s poems capture the cadence of the best of African American preaching. They are rhythmic. They are memorable. They read like they are meant to be spoken aloud to a church.

 

I think the word I would use, though, is “unexpected.” I did not expect them to hit my heart so strongly that I cried for a man who died before I could understand death. I did not expect Henny Penny to take on the role of Greek chorus. I did not expect the metaphors of stormy weather and of chicks hatching to hit me so hard. I did not expect the illustrations of King’s children to become blurry through my tears. I did not expect to laugh at the thought of grown men having a pillow fight. From beginning to end, Martin Rising was unexpected.

 

The Pennsylvania Center for the Book 2019's Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award to Andrea Davis Pinkney for her work Martin Rising: Requiem for a King
The Pennsylvania Center for the Book 2019’s Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award to Andrea Davis Pinkney for her work Martin Rising: Requiem for a King

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King is the 2019 Lee Bennett Hopkins award winner for Children’s Poetry. I would not take away a well-deserved award, but I did not read this as a children’s book despite the exquisite illustrations. Martin Rising deserves a place on anyone’s shelf. Yes, children can appreciate the poetry and the cadence and the rhythms and the pictures. So will adults. Buy the book for your children or your grandchildren–but don’t be surprised if you end up shelving it with your more grown-up tomes.

 

Just, make sure you’ve got some tissues handy while you read.

 

Brian Pinkney and Andrea Davis Pinkney discuss Martin Rising: Requiem for a King: the Pennsylvania Center for the Book 2019's Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award winner
Brian Pinkney and Andrea Davis Pinkney discuss Martin Rising: Requiem for a King: the Pennsylvania Center for the Book 2019’s Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award winner

The Pinkneys will be at State College’s 2019 PA Bookfest on Saturday, July 13, 2019 to receive the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. This week we are featuring authors who will be part of the bookfest, part of an annual tradition we started last year.

Martin Rising: Requiem For a King, Andrea Davis Pinkney

Book Review: Martin Rising: Requiem for a King, Words by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Illustrations by Brian Pinkney

Quote: A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket

Quote: A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket. Chinese Proverb

"A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." — Chinese Proverb

“A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket.” — Chinese Proverb

 

Quote: One benefit of Summer was that each day we had more light to read by. Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

Booklist: Fun Summer Reads

Book Review: I lost summer somewhere, Sarah Russell

Book Review: Summer Hours at the Robbers Library, Sue Halpern

Booklist: LOL Books to Laugh Out Loud with Your Children

Booklist: Beach Reads for Kids, Shared Reading with Children

 

Book Review: Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Book Review: Blood Type X, Persephone Smith series, J.L. Delozier

Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Thriller: Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Dr. Persephone “Seph” Smith, FBI profiler, has a box of photos. The pictures are of William Blaine, the most wanted criminal in the world, responsible for the pathogen that killed nearly 50% of the world’s population. She caught him, once, but he escaped, and someone has now sent her a box of photos of him. The clues lead her and her partner first to France, then to the Basque region of Spain, once again on the trail of the evil genius.

 

Author and doctor J.L. Delozier has created a fierce and wonderful heroine in her trilogy of books about Seph Smith. We first met Smith in Storm Shelter, then saw her confront Blaine for the first time in Type and Cross. Now, her battle with Blaine sometimes takes second place to her battle with her own demons. Too many losses, too many bodies, have sent Smith to seek refuge in alcohol. It may numb the nightmares, but it does not remove either the pain that haunts her or the criminal that awaits her. Seph has a heightened sense of empathy. She is able to sense the emotions of others–which in a time of catastrophic death is an almost crippling challenge. This gives her an advantage in developing a profile of criminals, but can make it difficult living her daily life.

 

Delozier’s medical experience informs her writing without making it overly technical or dry. She never forgets her plot or her characters when dropping in details about the reactions to chemo drugs and other medical details. I will admit to wondering at one point whether she had either witnessed a taser or possibly experienced one herself (no doubt in the desire to get the details correct and not from any unfortunate interactions with the police).

 

Her descriptions of the settings are also vivid. Whether she has actually visited the areas in her books or has successfully used her research to picture the locations in her mind, she effectively lets the reader see France and Spain through her writing.

 

Delozier is a local author and one of the leaders of the Nittany Valley Writers Network (State College, Pennsylvania). She is also a friend of ours. That being said, we only review books we like–even when friends write them. We like this book.

 

A flawed but triumphant heroine. A brilliant and psychopathic enemy. The beauty of Europe. J.L. Delozier’s latest thriller has it all. Read all three of the books to get Seph Smith’s full story, and enjoy.

 

J.L. Delozier will be at State College’s 2019 PA Bookfest on Saturday, July 13, 2019. This week we are featuring authors who will be part of the bookfest, part of an annual tradition we started last year celebrating authors who are from our local area.

 

Also see:

Book Review: Type and Cross, Persephone Smith series, J.L. Delozier

Book Review: Storm Shelter, Persephone Smith seriesJ.L. Delozier

 

Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Book Review: Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Quote: Kate DiCamillo on Reading and Children

Quote: Reading should nor be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift. Kate DiCamillo

Reading should nor be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift. Kate DiCamillo

Quote: Reading should nor be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift. Kate DiCamillo

Also see —

Quote: At the moment that we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold, that magic threshold into a library, we change their lives forever, for the better. It’s an enormous force for good. — Barack Obama

Quote: Children are made readers on the laps of their parents. — Emilie Buchwald

Quote: “It was at that age, that poetry came in search of me.” Pablo Neruda

Quote: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”― Madeleine L’Engle

 

Book Review: The Poet, Nickie Krewson

Book Review: The Poet, Nickie Krewson

The Poet, Nickie Krewson

Fantasy: The Poet, Nickie Krewson

My mother loved romance novels. Far from a guilty pleasure, she reveled in them. She would go to libraries, used bookstores, Goodwill and other thrift stores, anywhere that carried them and exchange a shopping bag full of books she had read for a pile of new-to-her romances. I sometimes teased her about possibly rereading them, about the lurid cover art some of them had, and about the unlikely yet oft repeated plots (at least, that’s what I imagined). I will admit to reading a few of them, but overall, romance is not my thing. (My wife would agree–and she’s the editor for Scintilla.)

 

So I will admit that it took me awhile to start reading The Poet by Nickie Krewson. A local area author, her first book is a fantasy romance. Fairies and humans and romance, oh my. I picked up the book last year during the Central PA Bookfest, part of the local Arts Festival, and put it on my shelf to get to…eventually. When I saw that Nickie Krewson was going to be coming again to the 2019 Bookfest, duty called and I started reading it.

 

And kept reading it.

 

In fact, I could hardly put it down.

 

I really wish my mother were still alive, because this is a book I would recommend to her wholeheartedly. Krewson sets her book in France, and she paints the French countryside beautifully with her words. Most of the action takes place in a small town in France, and the town and the surrounding countryside feel very real. You can almost see it, the sunsets and the fields and the forests. You can almost smell the cafe and hear the traffic and taste the baguettes.

 

However, the true beauty of this book is in the people. Her characters are intriguing and far from perfect. Yes, there are fairies and magic and the protagonist writes sonnets, but it is not over the top cheesy. In fact, it is very human and down to earth. One character struggles with addiction. Others struggle with their own internal issues. There are very real friendships, true love between parent and child, between brother and sister, and, yes, romantic love as well, but the romance is only part of the story. The friendship between two of the characters, along with the brother/sister relationship two characters develop, may be more important than the romance.

 

People who like romance should like this book. Many fantasy readers will also enjoy it. But Krewson’s work deserves more than a niche audience. The characters are compelling, the story keeps moving, and the settings are beautiful. It is worth picking up and starting, and if you are like me, you may find it hard to stop.

Nickie Krewson

Nickie Krewson will be at State College’s 2019 PA Bookfest on Saturday, July 13, 2019. This week we are featuring authors who will be part of the bookfest, part of an annual tradition we started last year celebrating authors who are from our local area.

 

The Poet, Nickie Krewson

Book Review: The Poet, Nickie Krewson

Reader Road Trip: Forefathers Book Shop

Reader Road Trip: A Treasury of American History in Centre County, PA

Forefathers Book Shop

121 East Main St
Rebersburg PA 16872
Phone: 814-404-0506
One of the first sights in the shop the 76 miniature classic book collection in a cabinet
One of the first sights in the shop is the 76 miniature classic book collection in a cabinet

Housed in a former bank building, Forefathers Book Shop is a delightful place to spend a couple of hours. In addition to the books on the shelves, there are stacks of books to explore on tables and almost every surface.  Likewise, be sure to take a peek in the basement where there are thousands of novels. Moreover, there are even boxes of books waiting to be searched for hidden gems.

Vault Room, Forefathers Book Shop
Vault Room, Forefathers Book Shop, shelves of biographies of American Presidents

The book shop specializes in American History, specifically Political History.  In addition, there are thousands of biographies of American figures. The biographies of every American President are displayed in the former bank’s vault. The theme of American History wraps its way through out the store in artwork, presidential portraits, and collectibles on any wall space not taken up by book shelves. The theme is extended to the glass bottles of soda and frozen treats available on site.

The book shop is located in Rebersburg.  Rebersberg is about midway between State College and Lewisburg, along Route 192. Visitors to either Penn State University Park or Bucknell can plan a lovely morning or afternoon jaunt away from the typical college town exuberance. Complete your road trip with a meal in nearby Millheim at the Elk Creek Cafe. Uncover a treasure of Centre County, Pennsylvania and visit Forefathers Book Shop.

121 East Main St
Rebersburg PA 16872
Phone: 814-404-0506

Reader Road Trip:

A Treasury of American History in Centre County, PA