Having captured the hearts of readers across the globe (Annalee Newitz says it’s “one of the most humane portraits of a nonhuman I’ve ever read”) Murderbot has also established Martha Wells as one of the great SF writers of today.
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!
This review includes my views around the entire series minus Network Effect. Although focused on Fugitive Telemetry, I’ll add some opinions around the whole series.
When I started the Murderbot series, my expectations were high, as a few of my peers raved about Martha Well’s science-fiction series. And it might’ve contributed to not being a 5/5 or 10/10 stars for me.
To start, it felt like a lot of the same story mechanisms were used throughout. For example, we’re continually seeing Murderbot hacking through various systems and reminding us it is a SecUnit and how they don’t fit with humans’s daily lives, and personally it gets redundant after a while. If you read the entire series one book after another, you might get the same feeling. To be honest, my favorite moment is in book two when ART, a more advanced system than Murderbot, could threaten the status quo and change the whole story dynamic. But unfortunately, Wells didn’t capitalize on this opportunity (or she might in Network Effect but haven’t read this one yet).
With that out of the way, I enjoyed the novels, but for reasons other than its main plot. The quirkiness and the idiosyncrasies of Martha Wells prose was captivating from book one and kept getting better throughout the series, and I especially enjoyed Fugitive Telemetry as she really pushed the style supporting her character.
Also, the character exploration was my favorite element, where she kept a first-person-always-narrating to reflect what Murderbot was thinking or a reflection on human nature. This element alone is what makes Murderbot such an amazing series, worth plunging into and probably what earned Wells the Hugo and Nebula award. There is a constant internal dialogue from Murderbot thrown at the reader that invigorates, entertains, and makes us laugh. A robot who is like many reported “more human than many characters”, makes for a great introspective into our species and the view from inside out. And in Fugitive Telemetry, Wells pushed this dialogue to a new height.
“Yeah, good luck with that. Trying to get humans not to touch dangerous things was a full-time job.”
In the end, I truly enjoyed Fugitive Telemetry and the previous four books, but not as science-fiction literature or its robot-driven narrative, but truly for its exploration on human nature and its reflection from the perspective of a rich-humanized robot.