Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Review - Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4)
by Martha Wells
Date: 2018
Reading level: A
Book type: prose novella
Pages: 160
Format: e-book
Source: library

The fourth and final part of the Murderbot Diaries series that began with All Systems Red.

Murderbot wasn’t programmed to care. So, its decision to help the only human who ever showed it respect must be a system glitch, right?

Having traveled the width of the galaxy to unearth details of its own murderous transgressions, as well as those of the GrayCris Corporation, Murderbot is heading home to help Dr. Mensah—its former owner (protector? friend?)—submit evidence that could prevent GrayCris from destroying more colonists in its never-ending quest for profit.

But who’s going to believe a SecUnit gone rogue?

And what will become of it when it’s caught?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I hate to say it, but... I think my crush on Murderbot is over. While I loved the first book in the series, the subsequent installments have been getting weaker and weaker, culminating in this book, 160 pages that felt more like 610.

Murderbot's voice is what makes these books, and is the only reason I'm not rating this any lower. It's always been snarky and defeatist, but still likeable. That, combined with great action scenes and an interesting plot, is what made the first book really shine. Its interactions with secondary characters, especially the bots (ART in the second book and Miki in the third), were great to see. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of interaction with other characters in Exit Strategy for a good portion of the book, which basically reads as a list of all the different ways Murderbot is hacking drones and trying to keep itself out of security feeds. It tells us, in boring detail, every little thing it does. I could offer some quotes, but then you'd be just as bored as I was.

Things pick up a little when Murderbot reunites with its friends from the first book, but even then, the characterization feels thin, as if we're supposed to just remember these characters from three books ago (my recollection isn't that good, especially when they're all identified by surnames). Its feelings about Mensah are intriguing, and that aspect of their relationship could've been explored more. But, just like Murderbot who tries to run from its feelings, the book kind of did the same thing.

None of these books have as much action (showing) as the first book, relying instead on Murderbot's internal monologues (telling). Reading this was kind of excruciating at times. Yes, we needed to know what it was doing, but at times I almost felt like I was reading a spaceship's maintenance manual. When the climax finally arrived, it wasn't nearly as spectacular as I thought it could be, given that we're dealing with space and airlocks and threatening robots running around with very dangerous weapons. The climax was pretty anticlimactic, in fact, and the resolution read like little more than a lead-in to the full-length novel that the author is supposedly writing.

The writing is weaker here, and the editing is pretty bad in spots. The book even manages to spell the name of one of the corporations wrong, which is something that could've been easily caught by a spell checker with a custom dictionary. I'm so tired of reading books that can't be bothered to keep names consistent; we have word-processing software now, with search and replace functions. It's not that hard.

So, I was disappointed, to say the least. I wish the series had ended with All Systems Red (the first book), because each book has successively raised my disappointment levels. Exit Strategy is an appropriate title, because it almost seems like the author didn't know what to do with the wonderful premise, characters, and storyline she set up in the first book; as a result, this final installment seemed like a convenient, rushed way to wrap things up.

Sorry, Murderbot. You lost me.

Quotable moment:

Something was overwhelming me, and it wasn't the familiar wave of not-caring.

Fine, I sent. I sounded sulky, because I was sulky.

I hate emotions.

Premise: 3/5
Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 1/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 2/5
Originality: 2/5
Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.13 out of 5 ladybugs

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