My Favorite Android: The Murderbot Diaries

The first use of the word “robot” dates back to the 1920’s (robotnik or similar being a term for factory worker in many slavic languages), but the word “android,” meaning a miniature human-like automaton, is older, as far as 1863. A robot – a disembodied piece of machinery – does work for you – like a Roomba, or the useless rolling pest in the grocery store that spies on people who might steal things (at least Roomba can clean up a mess it finds, and doesn’t cost $35,000). An android looks like a human, moves like a human, interacts like a human (more or less), but inside is a machine.

That fact has led to a huge amount of introspection – how do we define Human? Is a self-aware, English-communicating Gorilla a person? What about our AI creations? When a computer becomes self-aware, does it have a soul? Is it “human”? At that point, is the use and ownership of an android slavery?  That question was battled in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Measure of a Man,” where Starfleet claimed to own Data the android and control him like equipment, while the case was made he was sentient and free. The movie(s) Blade Runner also focused on that question. 

I’m not a techie. Computers are great if they do what I need,  but I couldn’t care less about future tech, AI interfaces, androids, or streaming. Anyone who knows any science fiction knows you never trust AI or give it too much power. I like Data, I don’t love Data. C3PO is annoying. I hated Marvin the Paranoid Android. No matter how many times I watch Blade Runner, I think it’s one of the most boring movies ever (I still love The Six Million Dollar Man, but he was a bionic human, not android). So I was really, really surprised that I even picked up the book All Systems Red by Martha Wells, also known as The Murderbot Diaries #1. Not my kind of book. But from the first page, I could not put the book down. I read it while cooking. I read it while my kids were in the tub. I read it while walking. I had to finish it in one day. Thankfully, it’s a short novella, and that’s entirely possible.

Murderbot, as it calls itself (it has no gender. Murderbots are not built for sex; that’s a sexbot), is a Security Unit (SecUnit), a partly organic robot/android construct built to provide security detail for whoever rents or buys it. Of course, mostly what security entails is killing whatever might harm the persons it’s hired to protect, hence the term Murderbot. Murderbot, however, manages to hack its own governor module, releasing itself from control by the company who owns it. 

This starts Murderbot on a soul-searching (or soul-developing?) quest to find out exactly who or what it is now, all while working hard not to let anyone realize it’s free, because an uncontrolled killing machine is a very, very dangerous thing (to quote Kyle Reese from Terminator, “That terminator is out there, it can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with, it doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear, and it absolutely will not stop… EVER, until you are dead!”).  But Murderbot isn’t fond of killing. He’s fond of soap operas and TV serials (like The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon). All he wants is to be left undisturbed to watch his shows while he tries to figure out the human race. Life never lets him, and he feels obligated (like the heroes in the soaps he watches) to help while trying to solve the mystery of who is trying to kill the people he was hired to protect.

Murderbot is sarcastic, droll, funny, depressed, almost autistic in his stilted approach to emotion and interaction with people. He’s a fast thinker and an opportunist. He says s**t a lot more than Data. He doesn’t want to be human, yet is fascinated by them and can’t stop studying them. And he makes mistakes, just like a human. The innovative – and logical – adaption/hijacking of computer systems has opened my eyes to issues I’ve never given a thought to, such as the power of drones. With all the issues currently happening via ransomware, spying, and breaches, and the mass-market and miniaturization of drones, maybe we should be thinking more along the lines of Murderbot, as our military is also controlled by computers, and nothing but nothing is hack-proof. People mistrusted the NYPD robodog so much they had to send it back.

I had to read the second book Artificial Condition (possibly my favorite, because of ART, Murderbot’s name for the “A*****e Research Transport” ship computer), whipped through the third, Rogue Protocol , flew through the fourth Exit Strategy, (also possibly my favorite), and am now reading the fifth, Network Effect. The sixth and current volume is Fugitive Telemetry, with three more commissioned by the publisher, and a TV version is in the works (please, please don’t mess it up!). All Systems Red has won the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the Alex Award, and the Locus Award. Yes, the stories are simple (good guy must take down bad guy) but the humanity and humanism throughout the series will keep you emotionally invested to the very end. 

Pure enjoyment, with no other agenda. Murderbot is my favorite android ever. 

 

Teen Book Reviews: Flowers for Algernon and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Teens: did you know that you can earn community service credit for writing a book review and submitting it to us? Today, we’ll hear from a teen who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, reviewed by Ali A.

Flowers for Algernon is one of my favorite books of all-time. The main character is a man named Charlie Gordon, who is 32 years old and has an IQ of 68, meaning he is intellectually challenged. Charlie Gordon goes to class at a school for intellectually challenged people and due to his positive attitude towards learning, he was chosen as a test subject for an experiment/operation that makes intellectually challenged people into geniuses. Throughout the book readers can watch the progress Charlie goes through on his quest to becoming a genius. Once Charlie becomes smart, he recalls past memories of his childhood. Once the full effects of the experiment kick in, it turns out not everyone likes the “New Charlie”. The “New Charlie” is stuck-up, arrogant, and makes other people look dumb. Charlie’s co-workers hate him so much that they created a petition to fire Charlie, and 840/841 voted to have Charlie fired. The only person who didn’t sign was Fanny Birden, and even she didn’t care much for Charlie and only didn’t sign because it wasn’t in her place to decide who could work and who couldn’t. As the world starts to turn against Charlie he receives more bad news- the intelligence that he acquired isn’t permanent, and after the operation wears off, Charlie will have a lower IQ than he did before the experiment. As Charlie’s emotional and mental growth goes back to normal, Charlie doesn’t. He starts out as a happy, fun, and care-free person before the experiment but after the experiment he is anti-social, mean, and boring. I enjoyed this book very much but I found it sad to see what happened to Charlie as the intelligence he acquired started to wear off. However this book made me grateful that God gifted us with lots of knowledge, and that we should never take it for granted.

5 stars.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, reviewed by Ali A.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a great book about Christopher John Francis Boone, a brilliant but autistic 15-year old boy living in London. Christopher is heavily gifted in math and takes A-level advanced courses at his school. However, Christopher does have some behavior issues, including the time he punched a police officer and was arrested and also when he and his father had a small fist fight. When one of Christopher’s neighbor’s dog turns up dead with a garden fork next to him, Christopher is automatically blamed without any evidence. Christopher then decides to clear his name by secretly investigating who actually committed the dog murder. As Christopher moves closer and closer to cracking the case, he starts to learns more about what happened with his divorced parents. His father, who takes care of him, said his mother died due to cancer in a hospital. Christopher believed his story for a while, but Christopher did remember that it was suspicious that his father casually told him that one night his mother was dead and forever gone. However, during Christopher’s investigations, he starts realizing that his father’s claim might not be accurate, and that his mother might still be alive so Christopher decides to find her and escape his dangerous neighborhood. I really enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time because readers can live inside the brain of a kid with autism by feeling their emotions and thoughts, and experience the cruelty of the outside world. I also enjoyed this book because readers can also use their brains to piece together clues and try to crack the case themselves. I recommend this book to people who enjoy mysteries, thrillers, and plot twists, especially when you find out there’s a dog killer in your own family.

5 Stars

Some of Your Favorite Authors Have New Books Coming Out This Month!

September’s got some great new releases heading to our shelves. Here are eight that we’ve been eagerly anticipating, put your name on the hold list for your favs, if you haven’t already!

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell. From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone and The Family Upstairs comes another riveting work of psychological suspense. One year after a young woman and her boyfriend disappear on a massive country estate, a writer stumbles upon a mysterious note that could be the key to finding out what happened to the missing young couple.

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. A family of tennis stars debate whether or not to report their mother as missing because it would implicate their father in this new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers.

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead. A furniture salesman in 1960s Harlem becomes a fence for shady cops, local gangsters and low-life pornographers after his cousin involves him in a failed heist, in the new novel from the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys.

Bewilderment by Richard Powers. A widowed astrobiologist and single father to a troubled son contemplates an experimental neurofeedback treatment that trains the boy on the recorded patterns of his mother’s brain in the new novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Overstory.

The Wish by Nicholas Sparks. From the author of The Longest Ride and The Return comes the story of successful travel photographer Maggie Dawes, struggling to come to terms with a sobering medical diagnosis, who is unexpectedly grounded over Christmas with her young assistant and begins to tell him the story of the love that set her on a course she never could have imagined.

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. The novel follows four young dreamers and outcasts through time and space, from 1453 Constantinople to the future, as they discover resourcefulness and hope amidst peril in the new novel by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All the Light We Cannot See.

Matrix by Lauren Groff. Lauren Groff returns with her exhilarating first new novel since the groundbreaking Fates and Furies. Cast out of the royal court, 17-year-old Marie de France, born the last in a long line of women warriors, is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey where she vows to chart a bold new course for the women she now leads and protects.

Fuzz by Mary Roach. Join New York Times bestselling science author Mary Roach as she tags along with animal-attack forensics investigators, human-elephant conflict specialists, bear managers, and more. Combining little-known forensic science and conservation genetics with a motley cast of laser scarecrows, langur impersonators, and mugging macaques, Fuzz offers hope for compassionate coexistence in our ever-expanding human habitat.

What’s Happening (Virtually) at Cheshire Library in September

While most of our programming is still online, we’re excited to be hosting our second Family Movie Night at Mixville Park on Friday September 17! Pack a picnic and join us!

September Teen Volunteering Challenges

All month long

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1523301099.jpg

Earn community service hours by submitting a photo, video, or other content that may be added to CPL’s social media pages! Each submission will be awarded 2 community service hours. September’s challenges include:

  • Art: It’s Sketchtember!  Challenge yourself and others to sketch!
  • Writing: It’s time to go back to school- write about your goals and vision for the new school year.
  • Food: September 26th is National Pancake Day- so get those hotcakes on the griddle, it’s time to make some pancakes!
  • Reading: September 6th is National Read a Book Day- whatever format you prefer, grab or download the book on the top of your TBR pile and dive in!
  • More Reading: Read a nonfiction book by or about a Latinx person to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month.
  • Even More Reading: Head to the library during Library Card Sign-Up Month this September to get a library card! If you already have one, check out a book you’ve wanted to read!

If you participate in the challenges, earn community service credit by submitting your creations so we can share them on our social media pages.

Book Buzz Teen Book Club: They Both Die at the End

All month long

This month we are going to read They Both Die at the Endby Adam Silvera. Books will be provided and are yours to keep! To pick up your Book Buzz book, starting on September 1st, you must register for this event. Then you can come into the library and pick up your book at the Children’s Desk.

Author Talk: Arlington National Cemetery

Thursday, September 9, 2021, 6:30-8:00pm

Join us as author Cindy Parzych presents the backstory of this iconic national landmark and highlights some of the stories of the interesting people who lived and were buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Please register in advance to receive a link to the presentation an hour before the start time.

Cat Tales Writers Group

Thursday, September 9, 2021, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Join us virtually for an open writing group that can help answer your questions on writing, editing, grammar, and publishing. Read a selection of your work to the group for general constructive feedback, or discuss a book you’ve read that might help someone else. Join us once, join us every month! We’ll meet on Zoom, please register in advance to receive a link to the presentation an hour before the start time.

Being Bilingual Rocks!

Wednesdays, September 15, 22, 29, 10:00-10:40am

Alina Celeste and Mi Amigo Hamlet are back for more singing and dancing in this interactive, virtual, bilingual music program! Best for children ages 2-6. Please register once per family to attend all 3 sessions. You will receive a link to the Zoom meeting one hour before the start time of the program.

Turtle Dance Music

Friday, September 17, 2021, 10:00 – 10:30am

This movement-focused virtual performance by Turtle Dance Music is a musical experience that is designed to engage children through song, movement, stories, projections, and interactive music technology! For kids of all ages, please register in advance to receive a link to the presentation an hour before the start time of the program.

Family Movie Night at Mixville: Coco

Friday, September 17, 2021, 6:45 – 8:30pm

Admission to Mixville Park is free for movie-goers.  Just tell the staff at the entrance gate that you are there for the movie.  The movie will begin shortly after 6:45 but you are welcome to come early and enjoy a picnic or a stroll at beautiful Mixville (1300 Notch Road, Cheshire, CT). Don’t forget to bring your blankets or chairs and some bug spray! This summer family movie series is funded by the Friends of the Cheshire Public Library and co-sponsored by the library and Cheshire’s Park and Recreation Department.

Teddy Bear Picnic at Bartlem Park

Tuesday, September 21, 2021, 10:00 – 10:45am

Bring along a teddy bear (or another favorite stuffed animal) for an outdoor storytime at Bartlem Park (520 South Main Street, Cheshire, CT) full of books, music, and movement! Be sure to bring a blanket or towel to sit on! We will meet at the fields or pavilion behind the playground. Best for ages 3-5, registration begins September 19.

Books Over Coffee: The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021, 12:00 – 1:30pm

Want to engage in great discussions about books? Meet new people? Join us for an adult monthly book club program called Books Over Coffee. We will meet over Zoom. This month’s book is The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream by Dean Jobb. please register in advance to receive a link to the presentation an hour before the start time of the program.

9/11 – Twenty Years Later

There are several points in US history that are “fixed points,” dates and events which become so embedded in the minds and hearts of the people that they become part of our universal consciousness, whether or not we experienced them ourselves. July 4, 1776, the signing of the Declaration of Independence. April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln is assassinated. December 7, 1941, the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, “The Day That Will Live in Infamy.” November 22, 1963, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

And September 11, 2001, known simply as 9/11, when foreign nationals who had trained here in America, who bypassed airline “security,” hijacked four American jetliners and crashed them into the Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and a field in Pennsylvania. The entire world stopped. On that day 2,983 Americans died, including 343 Firemen, 60 police officers, and 8 medical personnel – not counting the people who died from breathing in all the toxins released from the burning rubble. If you remember the day, you remember exactly where you were when you heard about it. People stayed glued to their TVs for days, hoping beyond hope that someone had survived the horror. So many people knew someone, or had ties to someone, who died that day. A friend of mine at Morgan Stanley by chance happened to be sent to a meeting at a different office that morning. Every one of his coworkers died. My husband’s cousin was just blocks away on her way to work when it hit, and wound up having to evacuate her apartment.

This year is the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a somber day for reflection. An entire generation has now grown up in a post-9/11 world, knowing the date as something only in a history book, no emotional ties to the day at all. Millions of New Yorkers are new to the city, with no experience of the unity the catastrophe created. Perhaps this is the most important memorial yet. 

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum at 180 Greenwich St. in New York City will be holding a ceremony for the families of the victims on that day. There will be six moments of silence, one for each of the tragedies that happened. Churches are encouraged to toll bells. The ceremony is private, but the museum will be open to the public from 1 pm until midnight. At sundown, the annual tribute in lights will commence. 

9/11 is a day that is going to be with us for a very long time, whether you remember it or not, whether you had any connection to it or not, whether you care about it or not. It’s still hanging over us, a Damoclean Sword we cannot take our eyes from. 

To honor the date, Cheshire Public Library invites you to share your 9/11 memories through our 9/11 Reflections project. As we approach the anniversary date, we are compiling the stories of local residents – where they were, what they remember, how they were affected that day. You can click on the link here, or pick up a paper form at the library. Select stories and photos will be displayed on our website on September 10. The deadline for submissions is September 3.

Be considerate about the date, even if you feel it doesn’t affect you. Hold that moment of silence, if not for the past, but for the future, that we – or anyone else – won’t have to suffer such an attack again. 

To learn more, check out some of these books and films:

Inside 9/11

Fahrenheit 9/11

In Memoriam: NYC 9/11/01

Zero Dark Thirty

The Only Plane in the Sky

Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11

The 11th Day

The Looming Tower

Kill Bin Laden

A Nation Challenged