Murderbot (MB) is back in its first full length novel of the series. MB returns to its role as a planetary expedition security bot but now it's actually getting paid. Things went alright; it only had to interrupt watching shows long enough to kill a few pirates, but of course the whole thing would have taken less time if the humans would have just listened. Not its favorite humans, they know better. However, on the way back to Preservation is when things get completely derailed because they are attacked by.....ART?? Murderbot doesn't really believe in the concept of "friendship" but ART's attack still seems out of character. Murderbot thought humans were the biggest inconvenience in its life, but it turns out aliens hijacking its not-friend is far worse.
Money isn't really all that important to Murderbot, but the expedition included Dr. Mensah's idiot brother-in-law and her sixteen year old daughter. The brother-in-law is the one who wasted time trying to talk to the raiders and got MB shot. However, MB isn't entirely certain how it feels about the girl. She's not afraid of MB and doesn't seem quite as stupid as most humans. Besides, it would do almost anything for Dr. Mensah. So to say it's annoyed that someone destroyed their ship hours from getting her safely home is a major understatement. Being attacked by ART, which stands for Asshole Research Transport, is simply outrageous. Some humans were apparently dumb enough to mess with ancient alien ruins, which is seriously illegal due to situations just like this, and ART sent them after MB knowing that MB would be forced to deal with them. Of course, the whole thing just gets more complicated with every new development, much to MB's disgust.
Some reviews like the complicated storyline of the weird alien-human hybrids, some hate it. In general, I thought it was as good as the novellas that preceded it. ART was one of the best characters from the novellas, so it was great to see it again and meet its crew. MB is shocked that ART told its crew all about MB and the humans refer to the two of them as "friends". That's despite agreeing that ART is an appropriate nickname for their AI. One major benefit of the longer story is that MB is able to develop more as a character. There is not only its friendship with ART, but also the developing relationship with Mensah's daughter, which may be predictable but does explore the relationship from both sides. There are also further developments in the overall storyline establishing a relationship between Dr. Mensah's team, who now has a deep interest in the rights of constructs like Murderbot, and ART's crew, who use their planetary survey missions to help forgotten colonies remain independent from the corporations that are trying to reclaim them.
I think few people who enjoyed the first four novellas will be disappointed by Network Effect. Overall, reviews agree with that and its still getting over 4.5 stars. Kevin R. Free's narration is still well liked although a few reviewers wished ART's voiced differed more from Murderbot's. In terms of audio editions, Network Effect is a much better value than the novellas, so if you prefer that format you could skip straight to it but I think knowing the original story arc first improves the experience.