To date, I had read all four novellas in Martha Wells' Murderbot Diaries series. I mostly enjoyed them. They definitely have a unique protagonist in the form of a rogue AI, but not just any bot, a security behemoth. As sci-fi classically has taught us, if we have anything to fear from AI turning sentient, it's the Terminator-like killbots that will be our undoing. Yet Wells asks us to empathize with this tortured soul who just wants to live its life and maybe watch some TV. On the other hand, the character is very sarcastic and cynical. It's funny to see human behavior judged through the eyes of a being intimate with us. And while it's blessed with a more pragmatic mind, it's irritated continuously with our shortcomings.
Murderbot's cynicism often results in humor, but it can also become overwhelming to go through an entire story with this disparaging monologue. I've mentioned before that writing this character in novellas has been a plus, as a novel from Murderbot's POV would be a bit too much.
Enter book five, the first novel-length installment in the Murderbot series, called Network Effect. I picked it up with mixed feelings. The world-building, secondary characters, and the protagonist have all been creative. The plots have been compelling. But, I was concerned about the length, given this particular character. To my relief, Wells handled this perfectly.
We still get to experience this story through the view of the sarcastic Murderbot, but in addition, we now have a character, his employer who has known Murderbot through the entire time period of the series, and who can cut through Murderbot's facade, to put the light of criticism back on it. We get a teenage character, who like most teenagers, manages to turn judgment back on Murderbot. And, we get other sentient AIs who, for all practical purposes, start to populate family rolls for Murderbot, and they don't take Murderbot's grief quietly. In short, they won't take his crap.
I think this story works well for a couple of reasons. First, we see more viewpoints in general. In turn, we get more breaks from Murderbot's attitude. Second, we get active tit for tat on Murderbot's judgmental voice. It makes this sort of character more palatable. Finally, we really see Murderbot forced to grow. The character has to reluctantly accept that its life is changing, and has to change itself to accommodate. In many ways, the character is becoming more human, more vulnerable, more relatable, and it's endearing.