What We’re Reading: Hi! Have you met Murderbot?

Martha Wells' Murderbot Diaries series: All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy
Available at the Main Campus Library

This series was read by Courtney Bippley, Reference Librarian, Lance Lee, Spanish Instructor and TLC Director, and Meredith Lewis, Orange County Campus Librarian. 

Title: The Murderbot Diaries (All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy), a series of 4 novellas

Author: Martha Wells

Genre: Science Fiction

#ReadGreatThings2019 Category: A book about technology [fiction counts for this category, too!]


Why did you choose to read this book? 

  • Courtney (CB): Meredith told me to and I generally trust her judgement. Plus, that fulfills my “Recommended By A Librarian” category for the 2019 Read Great Things Challenge. [And now can fulfill yours too since it’s on the blog!]
  • Lance (LL): Meredith was selling it hard, so I had to take her up on the offer.
  • Meredith (ML): I read a review of it and the book went on sale for $1.99. I bought the book and immediately loved Murderbot as a character. The story was interesting, too—terrain exploration in space,mysterious bad behavior, robots. Awesome. It is also true that I was selling this book hard because I want people to give it a chance!

What did you like about it?

  • CB: It is fun science fiction with action and mystery that lightly touches on larger themes of human consciousness and AI rights. What’s not to like?
  • LL: The philosophical question of whether or not this being was alive and should be treated like a human was really compelling.The first-person narrative from Murderbot’s point-of-view was humorous and intriguing.
  • ML: Murderbot as a character is extremely relatable, especially after a long day of interacting with people. I think Murderbot also really describes awkwardness well—those times when you don’t quite react in the most suave way? Murderbot understands (well, maybe not, but Murderbot tries to and then stops trying because understanding human behavior is hard, y’all).

Did it remind you of any other book, or a movie?

  • CB: It’s a little like The Terminator, minus the time travel and if Schwarzenegger would rather have been watching soap operas.
  • LL: Not a specific book or movie, but it belongs to the genre of “here’s this future world with these new ways of functioning, so what would happen?”
  • ML: Parts of the series reminded me a little of Marvin in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, though the two books are not similar in tone at all. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s just robots and snarkiness. And sentient space ships always remind me of that one Futurama episode with the sentient ship (duh?). I’m not going to lie–Murderbot also reminded me a little of myself as a middle and high schooler just being so over other people, like, trying to get into my business. I wasn’t a battle robot, though, so my damage count was mostly tallied in rolled eyes.

Was there anything noteworthy about the book?

  • CB: All the books are short so it’s perfect for times when you don’t want to commit to something long. And, pretty light when bringing it in your purse somewhere. 
  • LL: I found it to be a unique story that made you think a bit but also fun to read (a.k.a. not too heavy).
  • ML: All Systems Red (the first book in the series) has won both the Nebula and Hugo awards for best novella, and Artificial Condition (book two in the series) just won the Hugo award for best novella.  

What feeling did the book leave you with?

  • CB: Wanting to read the next one.
  • LL: I want to get to know Murderbot in person. I might even watch a Murderbot reality show if they starred in it.
  • ML: Excited that there’s going to be a novel to go along with these novellas! (Currently scheduled for mid-2020.)

What would you pair this book with?

  • CB: Binge watching Battlestar Galactica (the 2004 version), a show I think Murderbot would enjoy.
  • LL: A really long weekend where you wanted to binge read a series.

Does this book have any book or movie friends?

  • CB: If you want a more serious exploration of the topics in the book, I’d recommend Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick [available at the Orange County Campus Library]. Or watching Blade Runner
  • LL: I have to plug Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty [available through ILL]. They both are sci-fi with some elements of mystery (Six Wakes more-so) and set in a universe where new realities can unfold because of technological advances.
  • ML: If you like sentient AI, Autonomous by Annalee Newitz [available at the Main Campus Library] and the Scythe series by Neal Shusterman [available at the Orange County Campus Library] explore it in different ways. 

What We’re Reading: Wrecked

Title: Wrecked: An IQ Novel

Author: Joe Ide

Genre: mystery, street lit

Why did you choose to read this book?

cover of Wrecked: An IQ Novel, by Joe Ide

This is the third book in the IQ series, which features protagonist Isaiah Quintabe (“IQ”), a small-time, self-styled private investigator from East Long Beach, California. I enjoyed the first two books—IQ and Righteous—so I picked up the third.

There are several traits of the main character I appreciate. IQ, motivated by the memory of his older brother Marcus, who was murdered, pursues justice rather than greed, often accepting token gifts, like a handmade Christmas sweater (in Southern California!), in lieu of money from his clients. He is also a critical thinker and careful planner. He is skilled in reading people and memorizing small details about people and his surroundings. These traits define IQ and drive the plots of the series’ books.

In Wrecked IQ becomes embroiled in a mystery and becomes attracted to his client Grace, who hires him to find her mother, whom she has not seen in 10 years. The plot and its many subplots cover IQ’s business relationship with his mismatched partner Dodson; a complicated backstory that slowly reveals itself, and encompasses family secrets; WSSI, a paramilitary U.S. government contractor, whose employees have histories of torture and cover-ups at Abu Ghraib; and a love story.

What did you like about it?

Isaiah Quintabe is one of my favorite fictional characters. Wrecked presents bigger challenges for IQ to navigate than the previous books in the series. (Spoiler alert!) The opening pages reveal tough-talking ex-military thugs brutally torturing a victim (It’s IQ!), hoping to beat information out of him. The thugs work for the CEO of the international security firm, WSSI, which provides the advantages of cash, trained killers,and security clearances. WSSI and IQ are in pursuit of the same person. Who will prevail?

Joe Ide has a knack for revealing characters through dialogue. One example is Junior, a drug dealer, speaks as if he “swallowed a dictionary sideways,” misusing big and obscure words to comic effect. Dodson’s wife Deronda, the several brutes—Jimenez, Hawkins, and Owens—from WSSI, and many others populate Wrecked with distinctive voices.

Did it remind you of any other book, or a movie?

The first detective stories I enjoyed were Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown books. Using evidence at hand to solve mysteries fed my appreciation both for books and for applying critical thinking skills. As a child, I fantasized that I, too could be a successful detective. Maybe that helped drive me to a career as a librarian: I help people use information to solve their own problems and answer their own questions.

Was there anything noteworthy about the book?

There is a rumor that Ide is in contract with Alcon Television Groupto develop a television series around IQ.

With what feeling did the book leave you?

Frankly, I have enjoyed each book in the series less than the one that came before it. Ide’s trick of revealing how a problem was solved—after the action that depended on having solved the problem—wears thin. Rather than a feeling of suspense-then-relief, I experience bewilderment followed by a magician showing me exactly how easy it is to make a building disappear. I also found the love story between Isaiah and Grace to be little more than a plot device.

I hope the next book in the series, Hi Five, is better. I’m not ready to give up on Joe Ide yet, and definitely not ready to give up on IQ.

To whom would you recommend this book?

Fans of gritty mystery writing will probably enjoy this book.

With what would you pair this book?

Let me recommend an old film noir flick, The Third Man, released in 1949, which features protagonist Holly Martins bumbling through an investigation into the circumstances around an old friend’s death. Based on a novella by Graham Greene, it is a whodunit with a surprising twist and the story resolves through successively-increasing climaxes.

Observe how the film’s suspense is maintained while information is revealed to Martins and the viewer at the same time. Contrast that with how Wrecked keeps secret information about IQ’s investigative tactics until after the story plays out.

What We’re Reading

This book was read by Library Director Irene Laube.

Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy

One doctor’s passionate and profound memoir of his experience grappling with race, bias, and the unique health problems of black Americans. When Damon Tweedy begins medical school,he envisions a bright future where his segregated, working-class background will become largely irrelevant. Instead, he finds that he has joined a new world where race is front and center. The recipient of a scholarship designed to increase black student enrollment, Tweedy soon meets a professor who bluntly questions whether he belongs in medical school, a moment that crystallizes the challenges he will face throughout his career. Making matters worse, in lecture after lecture the common refrain for numerous diseases resounds, “More common in blacks than whites.” Black Man in a White Coat examines the complex ways in which both black doctors and patients must navigate the difficult and often contradictory terrain of race and medicine. As Tweedy transforms from student to practicing physician, he discovers how often race influences his encounters with patients. Through their stories, he illustrates the complex social, cultural, and economic factors at the root of most health problems in the black community. These issues take on greater meaning when Tweedy is himself diagnosed with a chronic disease far more common among black people. In this powerful, moving, and deeply empathic book, Tweedy explores the challenges confronting black doctors, and the disproportionate health burdens faced by black patients, ultimately seeking a way forward to better treatment and more compassionate care. Continue Reading →

What We’re Reading

This is the first in a new type of blog post from the Durham Tech Library. Each post will allow a staff member to highlight a book they’ve read recently.

This post is brought to you by Stephen Brooks, reference librarian, who read the book Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

Freedom

This novel follows several members of an American family, the Berglunds, as well as their close friends and lovers, as complex and troubled relationships unfold over many years. The book follows them through the last decades of the twentieth century and concludes near the beginning of the Obama administration. The Berglunds are the middle class suburban family that the neighbors just love to talk about. Walter, the successful and doting husband, and Patty, the tall ex varsity basketball player who bakes Christmas cookies for each resident of Barrier Street, seem like the perfect couple. But life is not the pretty picture presented to the world. When their precious first born is corrupted by the wanton girl next door, the edges fray on the Berglunds’ family fabric. An old friend emerges, tall, dark and only slightly disheveled and mistakes are made.

Continue Reading →