Martha Wells, Fugitive Telemetry (2021)

Author: Martha Wells

Title: Fugitive Telemetry

Format: E-book

Pages: 176

Series: The Murderbot Diaries #6

The latest (and I mean the latest, its pub date is today!) instalment in the Murderbot series returns to the tried and slightly tired format of a novella. Pity, I say, I preferred the novel length, but it looks like Iโ€™m in a minority ๐Ÿ˜‰. Still, Murderbot is enjoyable in any format, and Iโ€™d happily read even a short story if there was one.

Fugitive Telemetry seemingly takes us back to pre-Network Effect times, when Murderbot was only beginning to realize the consequences of its previous actions โ€“ mainly, that its treated like a person by those closest to it, and expected to make decisions pertaining to its wellbeing. It means such cumbersome, boring and difficult things like finding a place to live, an occupation (and no, binge-watching ridiculous TV series doesnโ€™t count), earning money, etc. Murderbot is not happy. Like any self-respecting rebellious teenager Murderbot is bent on proving to the whole world that giving it any responsibility was a big mistake… Well, at least in the beginning.

You see, the dead human found in the corridors of the Preservation station Murderbot tentatively calls its home might not be such an interesting thing in itself, as 1) he was not Murderbotโ€™s client and 2) he will certainly stay dead, but the investigation into his death suddenly promises to be both diverting and educating. Firstly (and more importantly), Murderbot can try out all the vocabulary picked up in the soap operas it avidly consumes โ€“ and some of it even seems to work!, and secondly, there is a shadow of doubt if that killing is not somehow connected to GrayCris. Needless to say, Murderbot dons its deerstalker hat and follows the leads, engaging in some entertaining one-upmanship with the security forces of Preservation Station.

The murder mystery case quickly evolves into something bigger and meaner, with the ubiquitous megacorporations emerging once again as the worst galactic evil, dabbling in slavery, child labour and premeditated killing of those they consider their own property. Obviously, Murderbot is more than happy to put a wrench (or a well-chosen explosive) into their plans. It does it with a swagger and lots of f-words of the regular kind, but even it can be surprised at times.

My favourite aspect of this novella was actually a small (but important) reveal at the very end: the existence of the hidden community of stationโ€™s AIs, about which our reclusive, reluctant and introvert Murderbot had no idea. Itโ€™s a nice touch, showcasing how maladapted to social life Murderbot really is, not only through its designation as SecUnit, but also through its own personality. It had so long agreed with the corporate designation of itself as an object deprived of agency and punished for the slightest sign of its own initiative that it didnโ€™t think the world beyond corporations might look differently โ€“ and hence, once on Preservation, it still treated other, โ€œtameโ€ AIs of the station as it itself had been treated before. Of course, it could have asked the AIs; but being such a reclusive, introverted, and insecure curmudgeon, it never even crossed its mind to ask.

As for the big reveal, though, I felt it was forced; an authorial Deus ex Machina, devised in a very Munchausen style to drag oneself by oneโ€™s hair from the conundrum one put oneself in (spoiler alert: highlight at your own risk): how to maintain the inherent โ€œgoodnessโ€ of the AI while making one the villain of the piece.

The rest is rather run-of-the-mill, typical Murderbot novella. Once again, Murderbot proves itself capable and caring, finds new friends (or at least people who treat it as a person, which is still awkward for our resident misanthrope), and saves the day.

I have been spoiled by Network Effect with its baroque, vaguely Star Trek-y feel and plot. The novel length gave the author more space for character development and worldbuilding, and she made good use of it. In this novella, we get back to short, snappy sentences punctuated by derisive comments and/or expletives, and while I enjoyed it as a whole, because it gave the novella a sense of urgency and sleekness, I couldnโ€™t help feeling I was watching an episode in a long crossover series CSIxDr House. Quite like the Sanctuary Moon soap opera Murderbot is so fond of, I suspect.

All in all, Fugitive Telemetry is entertaining and funny. Itโ€™s a fast-paced, undemanding read, perfect for a lazy afternoon or evening. Itโ€™s not going to shatter your brain with any revelations; and by the sixth book in the series nobody in their right mind expects anything akin to revelation from Murderbot Diaries. Instead, we get a bit of homemade buttery popcorn. I preferred the pizza, but from time to time I can eat the popcorn too ๐Ÿ˜‰.

I have received a copy of this book from the publisher Tor/Forge through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks.

Score: 6.5/10

37 thoughts on “Martha Wells, Fugitive Telemetry (2021)

    1. Aargh I know! I wanted to! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚
      I seem to have run out of luck with SF lately – medium to good, but nothing mind-blowing or even really thought-provoking since January and Aurora and The Technician. I think I need another dose of Stephenson or Asher ๐Ÿ˜‚

      Liked by 2 people

    1. That should be doable – have you tried Amazon marketplace? Honestly, with so much publicity and hype, it’s probably tempting to just read the one and form your own opinion instead of reading countless reviews! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Btw I finished the Jellyfish book – really informative, and the jellies are absolutely amazing! Thanks for the rec! ๐Ÿ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I thought you could use the German one – the postage shouldn’t be too much. But then, I base my knowledge on a pre-Brexit situation, and it might’ve changed rather drastically.

          Kindle is a solution, certainly ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’d say it’s much better than a phone because it lets you focus on a book instead of the barrage of news and distractions a smartphone usually offers – but that might be just me ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Liked by 1 person

                1. Oh, absolutely agree. That’s why I spend about an hour daily on news ๐Ÿ˜‰ The downside is that it’s an hour not spent on anything else ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  1. Sorry to hear you having to deal with stuff like this. I feel like this series (based off the reviews alone, as I have zero interest in reading it) is starting to feed on itself and eat its own success. We’ll have to see if Wells can pull it off or if the publishers are going to push this into mediocrity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There are many people who are enjoying it much more than I do, but I’m starting to feel this series is getting really repetitive or that it just doesn’t show enough developmental progress, keeping to the old formula – which considering this would normally be only a third or fourth full length novel doesn’t bode too well for my reception of the future installments. It’s still quite entertaining but incrementally less so, sigh ๐Ÿ˜”
      On the bright side, though, as long as I don’t expect too much from Murderbot, it will probably continue to be enjoyable and diverting, like a tasty snack ๐Ÿ˜‰ Too much will make you sick real quick, but the right amount can make you quite satisfied for a while ๐Ÿ˜

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Every generation feels like it is the one that discovers the question “what does it mean to be human” and tries to answer that. I’ve already gone through that phase and seen it done in literature so the idea is a tired old re-tread. Plus the predatory pricing of the initial novela’s disgusted me. Finally, some of hte reviews mentioned things that I won’t read (to be honest, I can’t even remember specifically what, but when I was reading someone’s review I thought, well, this isn’t for me)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, the pricing is murderous; though in your case, lending it from a library shouldn’t be a problem. I think you wouldn’t enjoy it too much, though – while there’s quite a lot of action, it’s rather in the background and there are feelings at the fore ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  2. Your review is a time saver. I think I’m on the same line as book stooge. I really have no time to spend on books that get less than 4 star reviews and then still prefer those with at least two five star reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Always happy to help ๐Ÿ™‚
      There is certainly the problem of hype when it comes to new books – I discover that sometimes it’s just better to wait a few years and check books with established reputation than grab brand new ones ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s true that we cannot expect huge revelations or world-changing epiphanies from these novellas and novel(s), but I’ve come to enjoy them for the light entertainment they are, as palate cleanser – if you want – between more demanding “meals”, and as such they do their job perfectly ๐Ÿ˜‰
    There is the added bonus, of course, that I quite like asocial, curmudgeonly MurderBot and it’s very possible that I will stay for the course exactly because of it…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great honest thoughts as always, Ola. It does sound like it’s not a complete waste of time and that there are enough things in it to make it fun, especially if all we want is more Murderbot hahah I guess we just have to lower our expectations, especially after Network Effect, to better appreciate this. And with three more books confirmed in this series, we’re going to have to pray things get better soon! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, the question for me is whether Wells can actually go beyond the same old, same old Murderbot and convincingly show its evolution and/or the evolution of the world around it. Something like Leckie’s Ancillary series, maybe?
      The problem is that after Fugitive Telemetry I don’t get the feeling Wells actually wants to do anything with Murderbot except churning out more feel-good novellas. I’d really like to be wrong about that, though! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Had a discussion with Milou last night where she said she shouldve liked this more, but tended to get unfocused. We now believe that robot novels is not her thing but she loves reading about it in comics. The unfocus part is not Marhaโ€™s fault as milou has it with other novels too.

    Great review non the less. I just got a heads up from Orion that ive been granted Zero Hour. Have you recieved any mail yet? We could do a buddy read perhaps…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Dawie!
      I guess it’s an acquired taste, the Murderbot books – try it out if you have a chance to see if you like it!

      I’d love to do a buddy read with you! Alas, I haven’t been approved yet… ๐Ÿ˜Ÿ If I get an email from them, I’ll definitely let you know!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. buriedinprint

    Well, at least it was short and relatively entertaining. I like the look of this series. Mr BIP has started into it, but he’s not gotten this far (and seems to be pulled in other directions at the moment).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, it wasn’t bad – just less than I expected after the full-length novel ๐Ÿ˜‰
      I’d love to read your thoughts on it if you decide to read it! ๐Ÿ™‚

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