Activation Degradation by Marina Lostetter – Review

Published: September 28, 2021

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Series: Standalone

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 480 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 


The Murderbot Diaries makes first contact in this new, futuristic, standalone novel exploring sentience and artificial intelligence through the lenses of conflicted robot hero Unit Four, from Marina Lostetter, critically acclaimed author of Noumenon, Noumenon Infinity, and Noumenon Ultra.

When Unit Four—a biological soft robot built and stored high above the Jovian atmosphere—is activated for the first time, it’s in crisis mode. Aliens are attacking the Helium-3 mine it was created to oversee, and now its sole purpose is to defend Earth’s largest energy resource from the invaders in ship-to-ship combat.

But something’s wrong. Unit Four doesn’t feel quite right.

There are files in its databanks it can’t account for, unusual chemical combinations roaring through its pipes, and the primers it possesses on the aliens are suspiciously sparse. The robot is under orders to seek and destroy. That’s all it knows.

According to its handler, that’s all it needs to know.

Determined to fulfill its directives, Unit Four launches its ship and goes on the attack, but it has no idea it’s about to get caught in a downward spiral of misinformation, reprograming, and interstellar conflict.

Most robots are simple tools. Unit Four is well on its way to becoming something more..

I can certainly see why this would be compared to Murderbot in so many blurbs! It’s an excellent becoming human type story, but it’s unique and in no way derivative of the Murderbot  series that has taken readers by storm. There are a few little twists and turns that totally blew me away!

The story starts off in possibly the most stressful situation possible. Unit Four, our protagonist, has just been yanked from a solution vat and is being rushed about to help save a mining station that has come under attack. Four’s handler insists that the attackers are extremely dangerous and so in a last ditch effort Four takes out a ship to fend off the invaders. It (as Four wants to be referred to as) is captured by humanoid creatures, and though it manages to injure a few, ends up strapped to a chair.  Turns out the humanoids are humans (a shock!) which also begs the question of who/what is Four’s handler if Earth isn’t inhabited by humans any longer. There a several of these topsy-turvy moments that really make one question what’s happening! Keeps you on your toes for sure!

The humans don’t trust Unit Four (who has been given the name Aimsley) but they do need it’s help. Their ship was damaged in the short battle that commenced at the beginning of the story and they now must work with Aimsley to repair their ship. 

This is ultimately a story of self-discovery and though it doesn’t give you the warm fuzzy that Becky Chambers stories have, it does have a similar feeling. It’s a crew up against stacked odds, they’re a weird and wonderful found family and now Aimsley might just get to be a part of that. Life can be longer than 90 days of eating recycled protein and getting blasted by radiation. Should a sequel be in the works, I would most definitely check it out!

Currently Reading: 9/20/21

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff
I’ve been sooo hyped for this! It’s great so far and I’m fairly certain I will be devastated and/or dying to get my hands on the sequel. The timeline is split, since the main character is recounting the tale of his life to his captors which I usually enjoy. It’s an excellent vampire book!

Activation Degradation by Marina Lostetter
In an attempt to catch up on all the review books I have queued up, I’m checking out Activation Degradation this week too! I can see where the comparisons to Murderbot come from, but it has a very different vibe overall. I haven’t made it too far into the story yet, but I think I’ll enjoy it!

Stacking the Shelves: 5/29/21

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly (or in my case monthly) meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you’ve added to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and of course ebooks!

Received for Review:

I can always count on Orbit to hook me up with some of my most anticipated reads every month! I was kindly sent an ARC of The Pariah by Anthony Ryan and a finished copy of Catalyst Gate by Megan E. O’Keefe, both of which I am really looking forward to reading!

I also snagged a copy of The Tempered Steel of Antiquity Grey by Shawn Speakman, which actually has a release date of April 2021 on Goodreads, but is showing September 7, 2021 in the Kindle store. Maybe due to a difference in formats? It’s set on a far future Earth and I mostly just thought the cover and title were too cool to resist. Thanks to Grim Oak Press for the approval!

I’m quite excited to also have an eARC of Activation Degradation by Marina J. Lostetter. The synopsis gives strong Murderbot vibes and after my success with The Helm of Midnight, I HAD to request this! I’m curious to see the author’s take on an unfeeling robot suddenly developing emotion. Thanks to HarperVoyager for the eARC.

My Purchases: 

I completely forgot to mention in my previous Stacking the Shelves post that I received the digital copy of Nolyn by Michael J. Sullivan, which I backed on Kickstarter. This is the beginning of a new series set in the same world as his other books, but can be enjoyed on its own.

My latest audiobook purchases are The Last Watch by J.S. Dewes and Son of a Liche by J. Zachary Pike

Waiting on Wednesday: Activation Degradation by Marina Lostetter

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!

Activation Degradation sounds like it will be a great book for fans of Martha Wells’ Murderbot series, since it’s basically another book where a robot starts developing feelings. It’s also a first-contact with aliens story, which is totally a plus! I think this sounds like a fun read and have a good feeling about it after how much I like The Helm of Midnight. This will be out September 28, 2021.