May 2, 2021

Review: Fugitive Telemetry

Fugitive Telemetry Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the sixth entry in the Murderbot Diaries series, but timewise it falls after the first four novellas and just before the full-length novel (Network Effect, reviewed here). This is an interesting place to set this particular story, as it adds some extra layers to the novel. Of course, our favorite cranky, anxious, depressed, standoffish SecUnit is back, and it has to do the one thing it hates most--interact with humans--as it is pulled into solving a murder on Preservation Station.

What's most interesting about this particular story, to me, is that it begins to open up the world, and sheds light on the decision Murderbot makes in Network Effect. We the audience knew before that the Corporation Rim is not a nice place to be--the "contract labor" clause that the giant galaxy-spanning corporations in this universe use to conduct their business is basically slavery. Also Murderbot, as a sapient artificial being (it's mostly mechanical with a few organic parts, such as cloned brain tissue), was treated as an owned, hired-out thing before it hacked its governor module, fell in with a group of humans including its "best client," Dr. Mensah, and won its freedom. This state of affairs is really brought home in this story, which focuses on an operation smuggling contract laborers--and their children, born into corporate slavery--to Preservation Station, and the corporation's murder of the refugees' contact while trying to get them back. Murderbot also faces discrimination of its own from Preservation Station personnel, who are openly uneasy at having an ungoverned SecUnit on their station and don't know what to do with it.

All these problems contributed to what I was thinking as I read the book: "Is it just me, or is Murderbot crankier than usual?" This is not a bad thing: cranky Murderbot is funny Murderbot, and I pretty much giggled my way through most of this story. But it's evident that Murderbot is taking stock of its relationships and life, and I'm sure this influenced the decision it made in Network Effect.

Probably most of you have heard that the author, Martha Wells, has signed a six-figure, six-book deal that includes three more Murderbot novels. I'm very happy for her, and I cannot wait.

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