“I was having an emotion, and I hate that.”
You read a line like that and you know you’re reading yet another of the Murderbot Diaries. Exit Strategy, the latest book in the series (and possibly the last one) by Martha Wells, brings the whole story arc that began back in All Systems Red to a satisfying conclusion. Delighted as I am (and you know I am) to have another Murderbot book to devour (I read it in a day), I’m still a little sorry to have finished it, not because it’s a disappointment (it is most definitely NOT a disappointment), but because now I don’t have any new books in the series to anticipate.
Murderbot has had all kinds of adventures since it last encountered the humans from the Preservation system in All Systems Red, including discovering the reason it thought of itself as Murderbot, the reason it destroyed its control system, and some incredibly bad shenanigans of GrayCris Corporation, which is now fighting against Dr. Mensah and the other colonists. In fact, under the guise of “negotiating” with the Preservation people, GrayCris has taken Dr. Mensah hostage, and it is up to Murderbot to get the damning evidence of GrayCris’ illegal behavior to Dr. Mensah and save her from whatever horrible fate GrayCris had in mind for her. Naturally this would be much easier if Murderbot was an ordinary Security bot, but since it freed itself, it doesn’t have the same firepower as it used to have, but what it’s gained is cunning and the ability to tap into other bots’ systems and use them for its own purposes. Murderbot has now dropped the pretense that it doesn’t care about human beings or want to protect them; these humans are important to it, especially Dr. Mensah who freed it from its official servitude.
As has been the case throughout the series, the book is filled with action, fighting and plotting and escaping from danger and causing more danger. It’s a pleasure to watch Murderbot manipulate other computers and bots, and even humans, into helping it, as it puts into place “what I was designating as Operation Not Actually A Completely Terrible Plan.” The real fun is Murderbot’s narration, a voice filled with snark and sarcasm and a certain charm as well. Over the course of the four books, Murderbot’s character has developed and grown, and what started out as something like what would have happened in the movie Alien if the AI had had a heart and a real desire to protect the humans has now turned into a story about the relationship between robots and human beings, between human beings and corporations, and about the possibilities for change.
If you’ve read any of the (short!) books in this series, you don’t need me to tell you to rush out and read the last one. And if you haven’t started with Murderbot (possibly because you’re following my rule of not starting a series until the final volume has been written), now is the perfect time to get out All Systems Red and read all four straight through.
And, while I realize that the story arc has been wrapped up and justice has been done and the ending is quite satisfying, I can’t help but hope that maybe Martha Wells will add some new volumes of adventures to Murderbot’s saga. Such a wonderful character deserves more.