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The Best Order To Read the Complete ‘Murderbot Diaries’ Series

Network Effect: A Murderbot Novel cover art

Whatever your feelings about AI in the present day, in some future worlds, it’s an integral component of everyday life. In the beloved Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning Murderbot Diaries series, written by sci-fi author Martha Wells (and coming soon to Apple TV+), existential questions about AI are formed by a part-robot, part-human Security Unit (SecUnit) designed by the all-encroaching GrayCris Corporation.

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Although SecUnits are supposed to follow their programming in all instances, some have been hacked or modified, which allows them to not only behave independently but to enjoy things and feel emotions. The SecUnit protagonist in Murderbot—the name it chooses both because it resents humans and it’s built to be a flawless killing machine—seeks to understand if it murdered a human and along the way begins to form relationships and seek a new understanding of its existence. All the while, it hides from the company to keep from being reset to its former self.

As of February 2024, there are nine books in Wells’s Murderbot Diaries series. Here’s how to read them in story order, rather than publication order.

Compulsory (The Murderbot Diaries #0.5)

Compulsory: A Murderbot Story cover art
(Wired)

Compulsory, a prequel to Wells’s Murderbot Diaries series, was published in Wired in 2018 as part of its “The Future of Work” series, featuring pieces by eight sci-fi writers. Republished in 2023 as an ebook, Compulsory follows SecUnit as it helps an injured human get back on her feet. It explores questions of free will and external perception and serves as a brief introduction to Wells’s characters.

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1)

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) cover art
(Tor Books)

All Systems Red takes Murderbot and a team of scientists to a distant planet to conduct surface tests alongside a neighboring mission. When that mission goes dark, Murderbot’s desire to be left alone to watch the entertainment feed becomes secondary to figuring out what happened alongside the humans it’s reluctantly begun to care about.

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2)

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2) cover art
(Tor Books)

Artificial Condition introduces a transportation vessel named ART, which Murderbot steals to return to the mining facility where it went rogue (or so it thinks). At the end of the line, the SecUnit finally gets the answers it seeks.

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3)

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3) cover art
(Tor Books)

Rogue Protocol follows Murderbot as it tries to take attention off of its mission, while its most recent owner, Dr. Mensah, attempts to bolster the case against GrayCris Corporation for its overreach and harmful actions. A rogue SecUnit is a huge issue for GrayCris, and Murderbot intends to keep being a problem for as long as it can.

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4)

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4) cover art
(Tor Books)

In Exit Strategy, Murderbot returns to Dr. Mensah to help submit evidence against GrayCris Corporation. Throughout, the SecUnit struggles to understand why it cares about Dr. Mensah and the members of her team, especially since those feelings are to its own detriment.

Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory (The Murderbot Diaries #4.5)

Home (The Murderbot Diaries #4.5) cover art
(Tor Books)

Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory is a short story originally awarded to readers who pre-ordered the first full-length Murderbot novel, Network Effect. It was later published in Reactor Magazine (formerly Tor.com) and is also available as an ebook. Set just after Exit Strategy, Home is told from Dr. Mensah’s point of view, making it the first canon tale in the series to not be told from Murderbot’s perspective.

Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries #5)

Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries #5) cover art
(Tor Books)

Network Effect is the first full-length novel in Wells’s Murderbot Diaries series. Once again forced to abandon its entertainment feed to rescue its human associates from capture, as well as help another human with an entirely different task, Murderbot is faced with the difficult decision of saving people it (reluctantly) cares about or attempting to purge itself of emotions and obligations altogether.

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries #6)

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries #6) cover art
(Tor Books)

Fugitive Telemetry sees Murderbot discover a dead body at a major transportation hub, which forces it to work with authorities to determine the identity and cause of death. And if the body was dumped there by someone else, who did it? Why? These are questions Murderbot doesn’t necessarily care to answer, but unfortunately, that isn’t an option.

System Collapse (The Murderbot Diaries #7)

System Collapse (The Murderbot Diaries #7) cover art
(Tor Books)

System Collapse follows the events of Network Effect. Something is wrong with Murderbot, and it has to figure out what the problem is and solve it fast. Barish-Estranza corporation has sent teams to help a newly-colonized planet and Murderbot’s human associates (including ART’s crew) are doing their best to protect the colonists… But they could really use Murderbot’s help. Immediately.

(featured image: Tor Books)

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Samantha Puc
Samantha Puc (she/they) is a fat, disabled, lesbian writer and editor who has been working in digital and print media since 2010. Their work focuses primarily on LGBTQ+ and fat representation in pop culture and their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., and elsewhere. Samantha is the co-creator of Fatventure Mag and she contributed to the award-winning Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives. They are an original cast member of Death2Divinity, and they are currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School. When Samantha is not working or writing, she loves spending time with her cats, reading, and perfecting her grilled cheese recipe.

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