REVIEW: Exit Strategy: The Murderbot Diaries Series, Book 4 by Martha Wells
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?
NOTE – The review is probably filled with spoilers.
Dear Ms. Wells,
To say I’ve been eagerly anticipating this last installment of the Murderbot Diaries would be a massive understatement. I’m addicted and freely admit it. No, I don’t want any treatment or intervention. I’m quite happy about being addicted. After reading the blurb though, I worried. Would Murderbot be caught? By whom? And what would be done to it if and when that happened?
By now Murderbot’s efforts to stymie the evil GrayCris Corporation ought to be known. At first it was just preservation of the humans it was currently on contract to keep from being killed – both by the flora and fauna of the planet they were surveying and also just because humans are dumb and do stupid things that could get them killed. Then after that all blew up – literally – Murderbot went in search of the truth behind the event that led to its own name coinage. To everyone else it was a SecUnit but it called itself Murderbot – something only a few humans knew.
What it found out raised all kinds of new alarms and sent it to discover what GrayCris was trying to cover up. That done, now it realizes that its actions might have led to the one human it … likes? doesn’t want to see killed outside of any contract as a SecUnit? being in danger. Dr. Mensah has disappeared and putting all the facts together, Murderbot knows that the efforts of the Preservation team to rescue her aren’t going to be good enough. GrayCris is desperate and desperate, soulless, large corporations can’t be trusted. Well, shit.
So here goes Murderbot again, trying to save humans and still have time to watch its media – it’s got a new series it likes (Adventures in the Free Systems) as well as starting to watch some “fiction documentaries.” Yeah, it doesn’t know what that description means either. Extracting Dr. Mensah from the clutches of GrayCris as well as saving Ratthi, Gurathin – no Murderbot still doesn’t like him but neither does Gurathin like it, and Pin-Lee is going to take some fancy system hacking as well as the rebuilt weapon it “relieved” the two GrayCris operatives of on Milu. Oh and all that code that it wrote to make itself harder to detect as a SecUnit – no, it doesn’t want to be human – instead of watching its stored media will come in handy too.
Murderbot is still Murderbot. It still thinks like a SecUnit that hacked its own governor module in a way that the Company that owned it didn’t figure out – which comes in handy because humans are often stupid and don’t think of obvious security measures thus allowing Murderbot to, say, get on transport ships easily, notice GrayCris operatives trying to be casual about tailing the Preservation humans and tons of other things. It still loves its media which has allowed it to understand humans’ actions a bit better though real humans are still sometimes hard for it to read since, unlike media, real humans aren’t trying to convey accurate emotions. It still wants to beat GrayCris because see above about untrustworthy and soulless. What it doesn’t want is to be human and why humans always think that bots and constructs want to become human baffles it. And emotions. It doesn’t want them. Or to be touched. That too.
It still thinks things through –
(Possibly I was overthinking this. I do that; it’s the anxiety that comes with being a part-organic murderbot. The upside was paranoid attention to detail. The downside was also paranoid attention to detail.)
and its past efforts on coding and working with different systems really had improved its neural pathways. (Hard work really did make you improve; who knew?) It still has a cynical outlook on life. I bet that’s a surprise. /sarcasm. And it can still become “new best friends” with pilot bots and SecSystems more easily than humans would be comfortable knowing because see above about humans and security measures.
But what does it want? Even Murderbot doesn’t know that. As it helps implement “Operation Not Actually A Completely Terrible Plan,” and outthinks some other SecUnits and a Combat SecUnit (yeah, they’re worse), it gets to contemplate what Dr. Mensah means to it. Is Preservationaux its crew the way ART said? Will humans see it as some kind of a person and not just a rogue SecUnit? – which makes them freak out when they think of that. Can it bear to be touched?
In the shows, I saw humans comfort each other all the time at moments like this. I had never wanted that and I still didn’t. (Touching while rendering assistance, shielding humans from explosions, etc., is different.) But I was the only one here, so I braced myself and made the ultimate sacrifice. “Uh, you can hug me if you need to.”
She started to laugh, then her face did something complicated and she hugged me. I upped the temperature in my chest and told myself it was like first aid.
Except it wasn’t entirely awful. It was like when Tapan had slept next to me in the room at the hostel, or when Abene had leaned on me after I saved her; strange, but not as horrific as I would have thought.
But now it’s got options and possibilities. It’s had all the emotions it wants to handle right now. In thinking about why “The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon” is its favorite serial – and thank goodness it stored the whole series because you’ll see why, it admits a few things to Dr. Mensah that a one second feed delay might have prevented. What Dr. Mensah replies to Murderbot might be a possibility now – legally. Putting together its love of media and a movement that has begun in the Preservation Alliance, Murderbot has options and better, a place to be while it figures those out. A-