Novella Review: Exit Strategy by Martha Wells

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Exit Strategy by Martha Wells

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 4 of The Murderbot Diaries

Publisher: Tor.com (October 2, 2018)

Length: 176 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Exit Strategy closes out the Murderbot Diaries quartet of novellas, and while it’s a bit on the tame side compared to all that came before, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to tie everything together. For those who have been on this crazy ride since the beginning, you will also be delighted to know this book takes us back to the beginning, to the event and people who started it all.

At the end of the last book, Murderbot had just made a significant breakthrough in its investigation of the shadowy corporation GrayCris and has decided the time has finally come to seek out Dr. Mensah, the lead researcher we first met in All Systems Red. But there’s only one problem: it appears Mensah has been kidnapped in a preemptive move by GrayCris to prevent a lawsuit from being brought against them. Murderbot now has no choice but to take it upon itself to rescue Mensah, but first it must take care of another predicament. Word is out that a rogue SecUnit is on the loose, and the authorities are out in force looking for Murderbot, threatening to end its mission before it even begins.

After making its way to the space station where Dr. Mensah is believed to be held, it’s a heartfelt reunion as Murderbot is reconnected with the other scientists from the original exploration team. But none of it is going to compare to the moment when our protagonist finally comes face to face again with the person who had always known Murderbot’s true nature, treating it as an individual and a friend. Needless to say, the idea is a bombshell for an A.I. who has always had difficulty coming to grips with its emotions. In one of the most compassionate and revealing moments of this entire series, the famously snarky and misanthropic Murderbot must consider how these feelings will affect its perceptions of humans, as well as what this might mean for the future.

Like all the Murderbot Diaries novellas that have come before, this final one really packed a punch. But while action and intrigue have thus far been major elements in the previous volumes, perhaps it is no surprise where Exit Strategy hit the hardest was in the emotional department. I felt it was an appropriate and natural next step following the intensity and energy of Rogue Protocol, and the more reflective tone of this book allowed for the attention to shine on everything going on in Murderbot’s mind. We’ve seen how each installment has built upon the previous one, forming a larger narrative while always increasing the stakes. Having recognized this trend, I expected a lot from Exit Strategy and in the end I was not disappointed. We have now witnessed the nearly complete transformation of Murderbot. It has gone to great lengths to augment itself to look and act human, and the final step was learning how to feel human.

For those of a mind that a person alone with no community, friends, or family can ever truly grasp the full human experience, you will probably appreciate the themes in this series. Murderbot began as an artificial intelligence freed from its programming. Hilariously though, before Dr. Mensah’s team came along, it was content to simply use its newfound freedom to enjoy the limitless offerings of TV shows available from the human entertainment networks. From the beginning, that part of Murderbot’s personality set the stage for the type of humor and charm you would find throughout this series, but it goes deeper than that. I’d really like to think that the soaps was what set our protagonist on its path to empathize with and relate to humans, ultimately discovering the importance of meaningful relationships and value of friends and other people who will have your back—no matter what.

All told, the Murderbot Diaries series has been an absolute delight. All four novellas have been quick and easy reads, but nevertheless, they’ll be hard to forget. I’m very excited for the upcoming full-length novel, because like many others, I have not had enough of Murderbot yet, not even close. I’ll be looking forward to see where Martha Wells will take the character next.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of All Systems Red (Book 1)
Review of Artificial Condition (Book 2)
Review of Rogue Protocol (Book 3)

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34 Comments on “Novella Review: Exit Strategy by Martha Wells

  1. Thank you for an excellent review, Mogsy. I have read and loved the first book in this series, but they are so expensive! Right now I cannot justify the cost for a book that I can burn through so quickly and leave me wanting more, so I shall now eagerly await the novel, which hopefully, will be better value for money.

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  2. I expected nothing less from this one, and just started it. Can’t wait to see where Martha Wells takes Murderbot in the novel- I’m SO glad we’re getting more!

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  3. I was really hoping to do a Murderbot binge read for SciFi Month, but I just listed all the review books I have and I just won’t have time. Glad it ended on a high note!

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  4. I’ve been curious about the Murderbot Diaries for a while, but I’ve read some reviews that say there’s a dip in quality after the first one, so it’s encouraging to see that’s not the case for everyone. Murderbot seems like a very fun character and that’s what keeps me interested in reading this series, even though it’s not the kind of sci-fi I would usually gravitate to.

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    • Yeah, each of the books have been a bit different in terms of tone and style, and that might have been the cause of some of the ups and downs for some. Together as a whole though, this series has been brilliant, so I hope you get the chance to check it out 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so happy to learn that this final novella brings to fruition the long emotional journey that MurderBot started in “All Systems Red”, and since I saw some hints of it in “Rogue Protocol”, I can hardly wait to see how Ms. Wells deals with our beloved SecUnit’s changes… And knowing we can look forward to a full-length novel, I can hardly wait!
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely! I was just saying to another commenter how much harder saying good bye to this mini-series would be if I didn’t know there was a full length novel up the pipeline. I hope it opens doors for many more Murderbot adventures!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great review – you did this more justice than I did and you were spot on. I enjoyed all of these but I did feel that Exit Strategy was the best of the bunch. Thanks and Cheers, Brian

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      • I really liked ART as well – it was the most entertaining part of Book 2 – but really liked Mensah in Book 4 as well. Really close call between the two. BTW – ESO is an amazing game – same look and feel as Skyrim. Going to have to be very careful about time management. 😉

        Cheers

        Brian

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  7. I wanted to be on the crazy ride! Why wasn’t I then – something something about too little time, too many books. One day. As God is my witness I will not miss a good series.
    Lynn 😀

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  8. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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