An antisocial AI learning to care, in the fourth Murderbot Diaries novella
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?
I blitzed through the first three novellas in this series. The main character is endearing and amusing, and the story is engaging and often thought-provoking. Exit Strategy, the final novella in the series, is another excellent addition to the series. Fans of the first three will, no doubt, love this one as well.
Exit Strategy continues Murderbot’s adventures as it struggles with its conflicting impulses. It is both antisocial and indifferent to humans, while simultaneously fascinated by them. It experiences its own, special version of empathy — one that is rather patronizing at times, as it remains baffled by humans’ inability to take care of themselves and others.
“You feel you’re qualified to make that call.” I said, “I’m the security expert. You’re the humans who walk in the wrong place and get attacked by angry fauna. I have extracted living clients from situations that were less than nine percent survivable. I’m more than qualified to make that call.”
Everything I loved about the first three novellas is present in Exit Strategy: the great writing, the understated humour, and witty observations, and Murderbot’s continuing quest to figure out where it belongs in the galaxy. It is still investigating the events that resulted in its self-given name, and the actions of the corporation to which it belonged. In this book, it is reunited with some of the characters from the first book, of who it still feels uneasy and wary (but at the same time highly protective). As it navigates the different, opposing forces in the the galaxy, helping (or attempting) to protect those for whom it has developed protective impulses, Murderbot offers some amusing, sharp observations about society, politics and corporations.
The company is like an evil vending machine, you put money in and it does what you want, unless somebody else puts more money in and tells it to stop.
As in the previous books, Exit Strategy shines when Murderbot is analyzing and critiquing the humans it encounters.
I knew interpreting the emotional subtext in the speech and appearance of real humans was completely different from interpreting it in shows and serials. (For one thing, the shows and serials were trying to communicate accurately with the viewer. As far as I could tell, real humans usually didn’t know what the hell they were doing.)
Anyway, the short version of the review is this: if you enjoyed the first three books, then I think you’ll also love Exit Strategy. If you haven’t tried the series, yet, then I highly recommend you do so. This is an excellent, amusing and interesting series, and one of my favourites of the last few years.
Martha Wells’s Exit Strategy is published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on October 2nd, 2018. The first three books are out now, and it was recently confirmed that a full-length novel is in the works.
Also on CR: Review of All Systems Red, Artificial Condition and Rogue Protocol