... a masterclass in tone. Murderbot’s sarcastic, adolescent humor suffuses the book, giving readers the distinct feeling of reading real-time logs directly off Murderbot’s strange, twisted core processor. The result is, at times, laugh-out-loud insights into human behavior. At others, it’s the feeling of intruding on someone as they try to understand exactly how to relate to their fellow sentient beings—and often fail ... far from a book on philosophy. If it is, it’s a book on philosophy wrapped in the perfect space opera, full of mysterious alien remnants, thrilling firefights inside of sentient space ships and political and corporate intrigue. Wells’ fight scenes are kinetic and tactical, juxtaposing visceral descriptions of Murderbot’s organic parts sloughing off with occasionally balletic fight sequences between Murderbot, its drones and whatever targets it happens to be facing off against. The result is not for the overly squeamish, but it is also gory within reason. After all, Network Effect is a book based in humor as much as it is in action ... Although not every relationship is explained to its fullest, the book contains everything readers need to know about Murderbot and its team. And for longtime students of the many (mostly sarcastic or mildly annoyed) moods of Murderbot, this will be a satisfying return to some fan-favorite characters. No matter your background with sentient murder robots, Network Effect is the perfect fare for any seeking the perfect weekend binge read or escapist vacation.
... reading Network Effect was like settling into a warm bath. Don’t get me wrong—the novel includes plenty of action and tension and forward momentum ... But I’d apparently forgotten to anticipate the sheer pleasure that comes from reading Martha Wells’ storytelling. A lot of my expectations were met, but still more were exceeded. For instance, I didn’t even dare to hope that the series would get queerer, but I’m happy to report that Wells’ imagination is not nearly as limited by cynicism as my own ... The return of the series’ exploration of media was immensely satisfying as well ... I don’t think there’s a cynical page in this book.
Like the series-to-full-length movie format it follows, everything is a bit wider and a bit heavier, but all the hallmarks of the series are there. We get a return of some beloved characters, more dodgy corporate interlopers, more robots-on A.I.-on-robot...action, and a bigger mystery. But now, with a little more room to breathe, Wells draws out all of those elements in a way that extends the enjoyable experience of the novellas, yet doesn't drag. Network Effect is more than twice the size of All Systems Red, but you'll come to the final pages and hardly notice ... what makes it all stand out is the way Wells writes Murderbot's engagements with the world and the humans that inhabit it. It feels legitimately the way I imagine a sentient computer system that is smarter than all of us — but also watches a lot of trash TV — would view the world ... The other strength of the series is a bit more subtle; it lies in the way Murderbot approaches gender ...This approach continues in Network Effect, with what appears to be the beginnings of a non-traditional romantic relationship that has been bubbling since early in the series, and that I hope Wells will give us more of. And that's the hallmark of any good series — it leaves you wanting more. Murderbot and the world it inhabits constantly leave you wanting more, in the best possible way ... Network Effect is a wonderful continuation of the series, and I highly recommend it if you enjoyed the first books. But if you haven't read those yet, you really should before trying this on for size. It's OK, we've got time. Not done yet? Sigh ... humans.