Quick Review: FUGITIVE TELEMETRY by Martha Wells (Tor.com)

WellsM-MBD6-FugitiveTelemetryMurderbot investigates a murder!

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!

In this sixth book in the Murderbot Diaries, Wells’s fantastic creation finds itself investigating the suspicious death of a human on Preservation Station. It’s a great new direction for the series and character, and one I hope continues in future instalments. Probably unsurprisingly, I really enjoyed this novella.

Six books in, and Martha Wells still keeps this series fresh. Murderbot is feeling a bit more at home on Preservation Station (as much as it can, at any rate), despite suspicion from law enforcement and others who can’t get past its nature and original purpose. In Fugitive Telemetry, we get to see a little bit more of how that’s manifesting in a day-to-day manner, and also the ways in which Murderbot is able to confound expectations and predictions. It’s not easy, though, as it continues to not particularly like or trust humans.

[I] could use the name Rin. I liked it, and there were some humans outside the Corporation Rim who thought it was actually my name. I could use it, and the humans on the Station wouldn’t have to think about what I was, a construct made of cloned human tissue, augments, anxiety, depression, and unfocused rage, a killing machine for whichever humans rented me, until I made a mistake and got my brain destroyed by my governor module.

Fiercely loyal to Dr. Mensah, her family, and a (slowly) growing cast of friends and acquaintances, Murderbot is always on the look-out for potential threats. When a dead body is discovered on Preservation Station, it worries that it is connected to the lingering threat posed to Dr. Mensah by various corporate entities (see the previous novellas for why). Asked to participate in the investigation — after first proving that it was not the killer — Murderbot engages in some competition with Preservation Security. It’s held at arms-length to begin with, but given its unique capabilities and mind, it makes more rapid headway than its human counterparts. The detective story quality of the novella was a very welcome development and shift in approach. Murderbot does lend itself to the genre very well, and the way it interacts with the world — not only humans, but also bots and technology — allows for some interesting and original approaches to an investigation.

This junction, and Preservation Station in general, were also weird places for humans to get killed; the threat assessment for both transients and station residents was low anyway, and mostly involved accidents and cases of intoxication-related stupidity/aggression in the port area. In this specific junction, threat assessment for accidental death was even lower, close to null. There was nothing here except the lights in the high ceiling and the standard silver-blue textured wall panels, marked with some old graffiti and drawings that were actually being preserved as part of a station-wide history exhibit. I guess if you were really determined, you could find a way to get yourself killed by exposing the power connectors under the panels and shielding and, I don’t know, licking them or something, but this dead human clearly hadn’t.

The story is laced through with the gentle humour that has come to define Murderbot’s character and its impressions of the universe and its interactions with humans. The pacing is excellent, and Wells continues to expand our understanding of how this universe works. Some of the best interactions are between Murderbot and other (less intelligent) constructs, but also with the humans who have come to inhabit its orbit.

If you’re already familiar with Murderbot, then you should absolutely read this (I’d be surprised if you haven’t already, though…). If you have yet to try the series, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Each book adds something new to the setting and character, and it contains great action, interesting plots, endearing characters, and a one of the best protagonists ever written.

*

Martha Wells’s Fugitive Telemetry is out now, published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK.

Also on CR: Reviews of All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy, and Network Effect

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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