When we had last left our favorite Murderbot, it was fleeing, leaving the beginnings of a comfortable life behind, before that life had even started—departing PresevationAux and Mensah, who had given Murderbot a path out of being a SecUnit. But what is a Murderbot, whether sentient or not, who doesn’t do murderbotting? Is this the Artificial Condition indicated in the title?
No—Murderbot is on a mission to discover what happened in the “incident” in which, not yet sentient, it killed lots and lots of clients in a mining facility and had its memory partially wiped. There is a trauma that haunts Murderbot now that it’s alive, awake, and in possession of a conscience, however snarky it is. In the previous installment of the Murderbot Diaries, All Systems Red (which I wrote about here), Murderbot was just beginning to find its footing, with a newfound sense of emotional agency, and a sense of belonging to something that’s more than a purely contractual connection. In the midst of forging this new identity, however, the very conditions that allowed it to form new bonds also opened up these old wounds, and so it had to leave the comfort of what it was just beginning to know.