Exit Strategy: Murderbot to the rescue

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Exit Strategy by Martha Wells science fiction book reviewsExit Strategy by Martha Wells science fiction book reviewsExit Strategy by Martha Wells

Murderbot, the snarky, introverted cyborg hero of Martha WellsTHE MURDERBOT DIARIES series, returns from its trip to Milu, the deserted terraforming facility in space. The cyborg Security Unit ― which has committed the unprecedented crime of hacking its “governor” that required it to obey orders ― was searching on Milu for additional evidence against the evil-ridden corporation GrayCris, as related in the third novella in this series, Rogue Protocol. Because of key evidence found on the Milu trip, Murderbot decides it needs to meet face-to-face with Dr. Mensah, who is technically Murderbot’s owner and possibly also its friend … though Murderbot would say it doesn’t “do” friendship.

Murderbot’s return to HaveRatton Station isn’t as straightforward or successful as it hoped. Station authorities have been alerted that there’s a rogue SecUnit on the loose, and security personnel are pulling out all the stops to capture or kill Murderbot. Worse, Mensah may be in serious trouble. News sources on HaveRatton state that she’s traveled to TranRollinHyfa, a major space station where GrayCris has its corporate headquarters, to answer GrayCris’s legal claim of corporate espionage against her. Now Mensah has disappeared and is presumably in the hands of GrayCris. Murderbot gets another chance to hone its talents at armed conflict and human rescue missions and, perhaps, at friendship as well.

Old friends and old enemies both make an appearance in Exit Strategy (2018), the fourth novella in THE MURDERBOT DIARIES series. Murderbot continues to develop as a personality, shedding part of its deeply ingrained introversion, but still reluctant to open the door to friendship. Mensah’s understanding of Murderbot’s fears both draw Murderbot to her and make it want to run away.The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

That she understood even that much made me melt. I hate that this happens, it makes me feel vulnerable. Maybe that was why I had been nervous about meeting Mensah again, and not all the other dumb reasons I had come up with. I hadn’t been afraid that she wasn’t my friend, I had been afraid that she was, and what it did to me.

It (Murderbot is never assigned a gender, and probably would be appalled at the thought) still frequently criticizes human stupidity, though it doesn’t even try to pretend to itself any more that it isn’t going to do whatever it can to help out people who need its assistance. It’s all delivered up in Murderbot’s hilariously sarcastic voice.

On the feed the human settled some details of what I was designating as Operation Not Actually A Completely Terrible Plan.

The first novella in this series, All Systems Red, won both the Nebula and Hugo awards, and the following novellas in this series have maintained its engaging combination of space opera adventure and Murderbot’s unique concerns about its self-identity and choices. Cyborg SecUnits are viewed as mere property by their developers, but Dr. Mensah and others have urged Murderbot to view itself as their friend and as an individual with independent rights and freedoms. Murderbot struggles with both views, and seeing that struggle play out is one of the appealing things about this series.

THE MURDERBOT DIARIES series has been a pleasure to read. The four novellas in this series range from about 150 to 175 pages each, so they go down quickly and easily, but they have some real substance along with the excitement and mayhem. I’m delighted that Wells is now planning to publish a full-length Murderbot novel. There can never be too much Murderbot in my life!

Published on October 2, 2018. Martha Wells’s Hugo, Nebula, Alex, and Locus Award-winning, New York Times and USA Today bestselling series, The Murderbot Diaries, comes to a thrilling conclusion in Exit Strategy. Murderbot wasn’t programmed to care. So, its decision to help the only human who ever showed it respect must be a system glitch, right? Having traveled the width of the galaxy to unearth details of its own murderous transgressions, as well as those of the GrayCris Corporation, Murderbot is heading home to help Dr. Mensah — its former owner (protector? friend?) — submit evidence that could prevent GrayCris from destroying more colonists in its never-ending quest for profit. But who’s going to believe a SecUnit gone rogue? And what will become of it when it’s caught?

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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7 comments

  1. Wells has been a favorite author for years. I am very glad that she seems to have "broken through" with Murderbot.
  2. This series is on my reading list now. I think her previous works were different — more planetary or alternate-world settings, maybe?

    • I’m not an expert on Wells (perhaps Melita can chime in) but I think her other works are primarily fantasy, and this series is her first major foray into SF.

      • That was my “alternate world” category.

        • It’s true that Murderbot’s her first SF series, but she does good worldbuilding and her characters are usually very good–they’re competent and smart without being Mary Sue/Gary Stu. There’s usually some snark too.

          • I’ve heard her names on panels at conventions; she is always brought up as a great example of world-building.

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