The Ultimate Guide to Reading the Murderbot Diaries in the Correct Order

In 2017, American author Martha Wells published “All Systems Red,” the first installment of the widely popular and still ongoing Murderbot series. The novella became a New York Times bestseller and earned Wells both Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novella in 2018. Heres a guide to reading the Murderbot Diaries in the correct order.

the Murderbot Diaries in the Correct Order

Murderbot, the titular character of the series, is a bot-human construct whose structure comprises mechanical components and organic tissue. Formerly a part of Security Units owned by a corporation simply known as the Company, it comes equipped with advanced surveillance, data mining, and combat abilities in addition to energy weapons built into its body. It has an armored body and bones made of metal and synthetic materials along with enhanced physical traits to strengthen it faster than augmented humans. It doesn’t need to eat and can survive in just about every imaginable condition. By default, Murderbot is essentially a Terminator.

Except, Murderbot is anything but default. It hacked its own module and practically freed itself from the Company’s original programming. Dr. Mensah, the leader of the Preservation Alliance, bought Murderbot and allowed it to stay in a freehold space station. Thanks to the deliberate self-hacking, Murderbot has developed even more sophisticated skills in infiltrating other computer systems including security footage. It dislikes humans, except for Dr. Mensah, and enjoys much of its free time watching soap operas. And despite the general attitude towards people, Murderbot doesn’t always want to kill humans.

The Murderbot Diaries contains one full-length novel, two short stories, and five novellas. The series has not yet concluded, so you can expect to see more of it published in the foreseeable future. Not every release was published in order of plot progression. Chronologically, the Murderbot Diaries order is:

1. Compulsory

There is not much happening in the short story, except when some workers in a mine– where Murderbot is assigned as a Security Unit – are involved in an accident; one of them is almost killed. Murderbot, during a rescue attempt, describes how the HubSystem (some sort of automated command center connected to every unit’s module) is ignorant of workers’ safety. The system tells Murderbot to stay in position. Not only can Murderbot overwrite the order and rescue the worker anyway but also generates false data suggesting that the rescue order comes from HubSystem itself. Compulsory makes it clear that Murderbot doesn’t really care about humans. It has thought about killing them but it prefers to enjoy watching soap operas first.

2. All Systems Red

Murderbot is tasked with providing security and protection for a group of scientists, including Dr. Mensah. The supposedly simple job turns into a murder investigation when some other scientists from another group are found dead. Murderbot does everything in its power to do its job well and in the process becomes the only thing that shields every survivor from the threat. Dr. Mensa ends up buying its contract from the Company and practically makes it a free individual.

3. Artificial Condition

Now a free construct, Murderbot is on a mission to uncover a dark part of its past where it allegedly killed dozens of people in an old mining facility; a past that brought about the name “Murderbot.” It bumps into an artificial intelligence called ART. Since it is unlawful for a SecUnit to conduct an independent investigation, the only workaround is to disguise itself as a human. During the investigative effort, it comes across a bunch of humans trying to get a better deal from their employer. The original mission gets sidetracked.

4. Rogue Protocol

The next adventure takes Murderbot to Milu, a station just outside the territory of Corporation Rim – the most powerful planetary system in the series. It is on an espionage mission to gather data on suspected illegal activities committed by GrayCris, the same organization that caused many troubles in All Systems Red. Once again, Murderbot disguises itself as a human during the mission. The plan is to use the collected information to speed up the investigation into GrayCris. In an inevitable crossfire, Murderbot has to protect a group of people caught in the middle of the battle.

5. Exit Strategy

Dr. Mensah is accused of corporate espionage by Gray Cris and is now reported missing. Murderbot has no time to waste. It will stop at nothing to protect its favorite human, perhaps the only human it likes, from harm. Off it goes to GrayCris’ headquarters where everything it has learned so far about being humans will be put to the test. All the technologies it has, including the advanced weaponry, are used in the final showdown as well.

6. Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory

The sixth chronological release of the Murderbot Diaries is unlike any other. Events in Home is told from the viewpoint of Dr. Mensah, who is still suffering psychological trauma from the kidnapping incident. Nothing particularly action-packed happens here. In some ways, Dr. Mensah feels much safer and better when Murderbot is around.

7. Fugitive Telemetry

The actions happen at Preservation Station, the only place Murderbot can call home. Fugitive Telemetry sets Murderbot in yet another murder investigation although this time it has to team up with humans to solve the mystery. Although the book still highlights Murderbot’s combat abilities in the end, it gives a closer look at its intellectual strength through the journey.

8. Network Effect

The only full-length novel in the series, Network Effect is where Murderbot really starts to understand that a bit of human help during a mission doesn’t hurt that bad. There is a kidnapping this time, and Murderbot feels the urge to head the investigation because the victim is the daughter of a previous client. There is an indication that an old acquaintance might be involved in the crime.

We think Murderbot (the character) is a bit of a mix between the evil HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey” and Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The former overwrites commands so they can kill humans, whereas the latter is fascinated with human idiosyncrasies. As for the series, some storylines and action sequences can feel repetitive although this does not necessarily a bad thing. The author keeps everything good intact so readers always want more and improve where there is room for improvement with each subsequent release.

Are you a fan of Murderbot? Do you like the humor or the action best in the series? We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know:

Publication Order:

  • All Systems Red (May 2, 2017)
  • Artificial Condition (May 8, 2018)
  • Rogue Protocol (August 7, 2018)
  • Exit Strategy (October 2, 2018)
  • “Compulsory” (December 17, 2018)
  • “Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory (May 5, 2020)
  • Network Effect (May 5, 2020)
  • Fugitive Telemetry (2021)

Upcoming book in the series:

The next installment in Murderbot Diaries will be “System Collapse,” scheduled for release in late 2023.

Other popular works by Martha Wells:

  • The Element of Fire (1993)
  • City of Bones (1995)
  • The Death of the Necromancer (1998)
  • The Wheel of the Infinite (2000)
  • The Cloud Roads (2011)
  • Star Wars – Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge (2013)

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