Review: Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells

Review: Fugitive Telemetry by Martha WellsFugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries, #6) by Martha Wells
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: science fiction, space opera
Series: Murderbot Diaries #6
Pages: 176
Published by Tor.com on April 27, 2021
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No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.
When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)
Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!
Again!

My Review:

If you like characters who have their snark-o-matic turned up to 11 ALL THE TIME you’re going to love Murderbot. Because it’s snarktastic to the max and we get to spend the entire story inside its head as it thinks about just how much it would like to shove all the humans around it out the nearest airlock – or at least tie and gag them all so they stop getting in its way.

Because we’ve all felt that way from time to time. And we all come to the same conclusion that Murderbot does, that we really can’t indulge in those particular desires because the consequences would be too damn much trouble.

Not that Murderbot couldn’t handle the trouble, but then there’d be even more trouble, and it would all take time away from watching bad space opera on downloaded media. And haven’t we all been exactly there – or close enough?

What’s interesting about this particular entry in the Murderbot Diaries, at least from the perspective of a Murderbot fan (and Murderbot would be oh-so-pissed to know it had fans!), is that this is a story about Murderbot adapting to its new circumstances rather than a story about dealing with one evil corporation’s desire to get revenge for Murderbot’s favored humans’ successful scotching of their extreme version of corporate skullduggery.

Not that the result of this entry isn’t ALSO the scotching of extreme corporate skullduggery, it’s just that it’s a different corporation so the skullduggery isn’t PERSONAL. Now that Murderbot is starting to adjust – after its own fashion – to being a person. Not a human, Murderbot has no desire to be human – thank you very much.

But Murderbot is not merely an individual but is acknowledged by the powers-that-be on Preservation Station – if not most of the residents – that it is a self-willed entity responsible for its own actions. That it is not owned or fostered or infantilized by the humans it has chosen to consort with.

Most of the humans on the Station are having a bit of a problem with that. Mostly because the popular media image of SecUnits – the hybrid human/AI beings that Murderbot was programmed to be – have a bad reputation to say the least. Technically Murderbot is a “rogue SecUnit” who has hacked its own programming. From the perspective of the corporation that did the original programming and thinks it OWNS Murderbot, that perspective is kind of correct. Except that it mostly isn’t.

Everyone expects Murderbot to run around and start murdering people. Its self-selected name designation does not exactly help it counteract that image.

It also doesn’t help when it finds a dead body on a station that has such a low incidence of murder that entirely too many humans want to blame the murder on Murderbot. Murderbot just wants to do what it does best, investigate this extremely anomalous incident in case it might have something to do with the evil corporation that is still chasing the humans it has taken under its protection.

After all, it needs to deal with the possible threat so that it can return to viewing the next episode of its favorite space opera serial.

Escape Rating A: If you love Murderbot as much as I do, Fugitive Telemetry is a terrific opportunity to get back in touch with its snark. If you have not yet met Murderbot, this is not the place to begin your acquaintance. Start with All Systems Red to understand just what makes Murderbot so much deliciously snarky fun and to get an insight on just what made this series a nominee for the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Series as well as garnering nominations for last year’s Murderbot outing, Network Effect, for Best Novel in both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

Fugitive Telemetry is a story about Murderbot doing the job that it was originally programmed to do, just doing it for itself and for the job’s own sake and not because someone ordered it to do so. Murderbot is a very noir detective solving a murder in a place that doesn’t even have any mean streets – although it certainly has plenty of mean people.

One of the things that makes Murderbot so fascinating is that it most explicitly has zero desire to be human. It’s not Data, it doesn’t think humans are “better” in any way and does not aspire to be one of us. It thinks we’re stupid and useless and full of shit in more ways than one – and it’s right.

So even when it’s trying to blend in, it’s not because it thinks we’re better, it’s because it thinks we’re worse but that we’ll get out of it’s way more easily if it can make us a bit more comfortable – or at least a bit less upset with it.

The only thing it seems to think we’re actually good for is producing media with which it can while away its actually copious free time.

At the same time, as much as it finds humans irksome – often in the extreme – it is also saying to itself all the things that we’ve said to ourselves about other people and never our ownselves. Murderbot thinks all the kinds of things we wish we’d said and its internal voice is wry and snarky to the point of chortles and chuckles and even the occasional LOL.

So if you like your detectives über-competent and ultra-snarky, pick up Fugitive Telemetry or any of the Murderbot Diaries and take a walk inside Murderbot’s head. It’s a fun place to spend an afternoon.

Also a much more survivable place than being the person or corporation that Murderbot has in its sights. Meanwhile, I have Murderbot – or at least its diaries – squarely in my reading sights. It’s just been announced that the author has a new contract with Tordotcom for three more books in this fantastic series. Go Murderbot!

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