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. 

 

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.

Twilight of the Gods, Ian Toll

Media has changed warfare. Thanks to Matthew Brady, photos of the brutality and hopelessness of war affected people in an entirely new way. At the time, the Civil War was the most documented war in history - yet it had nothing on World War II, just 75 years later. Movie film captured every last horror of that war, by both those who wanted to document the atrocities and those who wanted to bask in what they saw as glory. By Viet Nam, with Kodak Instamatics fitting in a soldier’s pocket, the grit was documented by everyone, not just official sources. In today’s internet era, conflicts are documented and uploaded to the world live, before officials even know they’ve happened. It will take decades to sort through available data and make viable conclusions on modern conflicts.

Media has changed warfare. Thanks to Matthew Brady, early photographer, photos of the brutality and hopelessness of war affected people in an entirely new way. At the time, the Civil War was the most documented war in history – yet it had nothing on World War II, just 75 years later. Now movie film captured every last horror of that war, by both those who wanted to document the atrocities and those who wanted to bask in what they saw as glory. By Viet Nam, with Kodak Instamatics fitting in a soldier’s pocket, the grit was documented by everyone, not just official sources. In today’s internet era, conflicts are documented and uploaded to the world live, before officials even know they’ve happened. It will take decades to sort through available data and make viable conclusions on modern conflicts.

German Sub U-755 is sunk by an RAF rocket, 1943

But World War II was no slouch. In doing a bit of research the other month on my grandmother’s little-known younger brother (they were 16 years apart), within 10 minutes, my sister and I were able to pull up information that stunned us. All anyone knew had been “Uncle Laurie was on a Coast Guard ship that was presumed lost at sea, possibly due to a German Sub, during World War II.”  Well, thanks to unfailing documentation, we found out that Laurie had been a radioman on the USS Muskeget, a weather ship, which was shot at 3 times by the German sub U-755 at 3:15 in the afternoon of September 9, 1942. Two torpedoes hit, killing all aboard. They even had the coordinates off Greenland. Not only that, but there’s a photo of U-755 being sunk by an RAF plane several months later!  No one in the family had ever known any of those facts.

With that type of minutiae now available, Ian Toll brings together his final tome on the history of the Asian Theater in WWII, Twilight of the Gods (I know, I just switched from the European front to the Asian one, but our family knows less about the Asian front: Uncle Art was a Marine at Iwo Jima, but not the famous flag raising, and my psychiatrist grandfather was stationed in California as a Navy Captain treating shell-shocked soldiers returning from the lines). In his third installment of the war, Toll covers the months between  June of 1944 and the Peace Treaty in 1945, after the dropping of the bomb. 

The Asian theater is an anomaly: this is the part of the war that actually attacked US territory, the act of aggression that finally drew us into the war despite the incomprehensible acts going on in Europe, and yet, we tend to teach only the European aspect of the war, beyond the two facts of 1) Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, and 2) we dropped the first (and only) nukes on them in retaliation. Is it because of the difference of a Navy war vs. an Army land war? It’s easy to follow Maginot lines on a map, but ships bouncing from island to island around a massive ocean isn’t as visual: We can understand where France is, but where exactly is 7.1315° N, 171.1845° E? (It’s the Marshall Islands. Can you picture them? Neither can I.) How can people fight over water, which has no country? Far more people had relatives affected somewhere in Europe, vs no one was taking up collections to send to Vanuatu. Yet the battles were the largest naval battles in history, and the cruelty and aspirations no less than that of Hitler. 

Toll spares no fact from his relentless research, and the brutality and heartbreak can inure the reader – much as it did those who lived through it. He covers the infighting among leaders – no one thought highly of Admiral Halsey – and the waste of young men literally being thrown at ships as kamikaze pilots – a tactic that eventually wore thin even among the Japanese. Good or bad, Toll covers it in a narrative style that will give you a far greater appreciation for the lesser-known side of a war that literally covered the world.  Whew.

If you don’t have time to sit and read a thousand pages, Twilight of the Gods is now available at CPL on audiobook, to make that commute just a little more interesting!

Twilight of the Gods

Audio book Print

The Conquering Tide

Audio book Print

Pacific Crucible

Diverse Romance

People of all ethnicities, body types, sexual orientations, and interests fall in love every day in real life, but until pretty recently it hasn’t been easy to find romance books that reflect that reality. While straight white male/female protagonists are still the mainstay of the romance genre, more diverse authors and story-lines have been getting some attention lately, which is all for the good. Here are some recent examples of love stories with different perspectives.

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory

The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan

How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

Homeschooling and Remote Learning Resources at the Library

Hey, parents and teachers at home- we see you. You’re working hard to educate remotely, and most likely dealing with your own kids at the same time. We’re committed to helping you, whether you’re a caregiver, educator, or both. We have some great resources for distance learning and homeschooling, and we have lots of information that can make your life a little easier right now.

We’ve scheduled timely and informative virtual programs about homeschooling coming up in January and February:

So You’re Thinking about Homeschooling?

Monday, January 11, 2021, 6:30 – 7:30pm

Join Linda Hincks, East Hampton homeschool mom and owner of Wren Homeschool Consulting, to learn the basics of homeschooling and the laws in Connecticut. She will provide information to help you decide if it is right for your family.

Tips and Tricks for Remote Learners from a Homeschool Veteran

Monday, February 1, 2021, 6:30 – 7:30pm

Schooling at home and homeschooling are different, but there’s also a lot of overlap. Get some tips and tricks for remote learning from 20 year homeschool veteran, Linda Hincks. We’ll talk about how to relieve stress for kids and adults alike and revive energy for learning. Bring your questions and concerns.

Homeschooling: What’s Next?

Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 6:30 – 7:30pm

You’ve decided to homeschool. What’s next? Join Linda Hincks of Wren Homeschool Consulting to find out not only what to do, but how!

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We also offer virtual Toddler and Preschool Storytimes featuring interactive songs, stories, and other fun learning activities.

What about books? Or access to e-books? We’ve got a variety of materials for at-home reading and studying needs for all ages!

 

 

Homeschooling Books. If you’re unsure where to begin, these books are a good starting point! Get tips and resources from people in the know.

Lit Kits are a great way to take storytime and learning home with you!  Each kit contains 3-4 books on a theme, toys or manipulatives, and a caregiver guide with suggested songs and activities. Our Lit Kits are designed for children 3-5 years old, but they can be adapted or modified for use with almost any age group.

Audiobooks (both digital and on CD) offer many benefits for children. As a child hears an audio book, they enter a journey where reading seems friendlier and more approachable. A young reader listening to an audio book is more apt to establish a pattern of concentrating on the sounds of words without being interrupted by personal reading obstacles.

Playaway is a pre-loaded audiobook that gives kids the portability and freedom to listen to audiobooks anytime, anywhere. It promotes literacy, bridges the digital divide, and makes technology accessible to everyone, with high-quality audio productions of titles from the industry’s best publishers.

VOX™ Books combine outstanding picture books and non-fiction with audio recordings that capture children’s attention and make learning and literacy development fun. The permanently attached VOX™ Reader transforms an ordinary print book into an all-in-one read-along. There’s no need for computers, tablets or CDs. Children simply push a button to listen and read.

Books on DVD – audiovisual adaptations bring outstanding children’s picture books to life and help children fall in love with books and reading. Our DVDs are word-for-word adaptations of the books they are based on, and help all readers improve their fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

NEW! Launchpad Reading Academy, a fun and focused way to help kids improve their reading skills. This multi-media tablet contains interactive storybooks, videos, and apps that help kids learn to read, progress through reading levels, and fall in love with reading. This 5-level guided reading system helps kids master verbal, reading, and writing skills — starting at any level. Every app, storybook, and video has been hand-selected to help kids gain the knowledge they need to transition from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn.

Mango offers over 70 world language courses expertly designed to adapt to a diverse range of learning needs, styles, and backgrounds. Mango prepares learners for realistic conversations and communication and the confidence needed to communicate in a new language.

researchIT CT online reference databases: newspapers, magazines, journals, genealogy & more. researchIT CT provides all students, faculty and residents with online access to essential library and information resources. Through researchIT CT, a core level of information resources including secured access to licensed databases is available to every citizen in Connecticut.

Many families are pursuing distance learning – at least part-time, and while it can be an incredibly rewarding experience for families to learn together, we know it can also feel overwhelming to find the right tools and resources that will help your child succeed. Libraries are here to help!