Escape Velocity

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Part 4 in the Murderbot Diaries - The Murderbot reconnects to the feeds when it returns from its self-imposed intelligence gathering mission to find that one of its favourite humans has become caught up in inter-corporate politics, and the Murderbot may have accidentally played an important part in the corporate anger against her. When the Murderbot figures she may have been kidnapped, it reluctantly turns off space-Netflix once again to save the day.

Listened to the audiobook with Kevin R. Free. Well-told this time.

Having heard the recent rumours of an upcoming Murderbot TV adaptation, I figured I’d give the series another shot (after having dropped Murderbot after part three about two years ago). After all, I really like the idea of The Murderbot Diaries. So perhaps taking a break would be enough to help me appreciate it just a little bit more…

Unfortunately, no.

Exit Strategy is similar to the previous instalments in the series: the Murderbot travels to a new space station, hacks its way through station security, and pretends to be human, until it is confronted with powerful corporate security that attempts to stop it from completing its mission.

It’s message is also similar: capitalism sucks, humans supporting that system suck, human interaction is difficult (and sucks), sometimes you just want to lock youself in a room and watch television (which, incidentally, doesn’t suck), but even if you do so, some humans, surprisingly, don’t suck and it’s worth the effort of socialising with them to be their friend.

But the Murderbot’s social struggles just didn’t really resonate with me, the hacking is starting to get really samey, and I’m really starting to feel that the piecemeal worldbuilding is letting the series down.

I really love that the story is told through bite size chunks of about 3-4 hours. But with Exit Strategy, I really felt like I was reading a chapter in a novel that was pretending to be a novella. There is clearly a direction for the series, but because Exit Strategy is supposedly a novella,  that through line is very simple.

That is a pity, because I can feel the potential of politics done right just swirling beneath the prose. The same goes for the worldbuilding, or the recurring human characters.  I think Exit Strategy is really where the format is starting to hurt the series.

I wonder if it has ever happened before that I’ve tried to like something as much as I’ve tried to like Murderbot, but still failed. I like the format of a series of shorter stand alone stories, that still tell a connected tale. I love the idea of an androgynous socially awkward cyborg that hacked itself to watch space-Netflix. I love the idea of describing human interaction from the point of view of that character. I like the idea of hacking and bot-to-bot interaction playing an important role in the plot.

Murderbot has all the ingredients for a huge hit – so it is no wonder that it is! Wells has received two Nebulas and four (!) Hugos for the series. That’s incredible, and I’m not going to argue that The Murderbot Diaries doesn’t deserve them. Wells just used all those great ingredients to bake a cake that is constantly disappointing for me.

Now, the next instalment, Network Effect, is actually a novel. Which makes me feel like Wells maybe agreed with me. So now I’m in doubt again, because maybe it would actually be a good idea to read Network Effect and see if it remedies some of the issues I am struggling with in this series. Boy, I am really trying hard to like Murderbot….

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