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Exit Strategy brings Murderbot saga to satisfying conclusion

Exit Strategy cover page

Exit Strategy cover page

Our journey through The Murderbot Diaries continues. I have said this a dozen times already, but I don’t mind repeating it. These books are too small.

It feels like Martha Wells wrote one regular-size novel but then decided to split it into smaller bite-sized pieces to maximize her earnings. I changed my tune when I read Rogue Protocol (Book 3) because the book was immensely entertaining. Despite the novella’s small page count, the experience left me satisfied and I realized that short books are perfectly okay as long as the author delivers a story befitting the money I spent.

So, imagine my surprise when I got Network Effect (Book 5) and realized that Martha had finally given us a full-size novel. Admittedly, at 350 pages, the book is still tiny. Nonetheless, I appreciate it. Let’s talk about Exit Strategy, the fourth book in the series.

Exit Strategy matters because it technically ends the first arc of the Murderbot diaries. Back when I was grumbling about All Systems Red (Book 1), fans of the series told me to persevere until the fourth novel, which would wind back to the characters we met in the beginning before tying off every loose end from Book 1. They did not exaggerate.

Exit Strategy starts where Rogue Protocol ended. After collecting evidence incriminating GrayCris Corporation in several illegal activities, Murderbot is ready to deliver his findings to Dr. Mensah.

Unfortunately, his activities on Milu did not go unnoticed. GrayCris thought Mensah sent Murderbot to sabotage their plans, so naturally, they took her hostage. What should have been an awkward reunion morphs into a deadly mission to retrieve Mensah before GrayCris Corporation decides they no longer need her.

Exit Strategy did three things well. First, Murderbot is incredibly engaging. Martha Wells spent the first three books peeling back the layers that constitute this character.

Murderbot is as much a mystery to himself as he is to us, and each installment in this series gives him insight into his psyche. I thought that journey would get tiresome after a while, but that has yet to happen.

The book’s most compelling aspect is Murderbot’s anxiety over finally reuniting with the team he abandoned in Book 1. Despite what he tells himself, Murderbot cares about humans. More than that, he cares what they think of him, and that infuriates the character to his core. Martha puts us in the cyborg’s shoes as he gradually comes to terms with his bizarre motives and emotions.

The character shines because of his relatability. Everything he learned in the last two books bears fruit in Exit Strategy, and the finale does not disappoint.

That brings us to the action; Martha did an impressive job of keeping me apprised of the numerous moving parts in any given scene. Again, the action lands because of Murderbot. Explosive action becomes boring after a while unless an interesting narrative drives it.

Murderbot’s proficiency is not in question. He’s survived thus far because of his ingenuity. We don’t need epic action scenes to remind us that he is a badass.

That brings us to the supporting cast, which I disliked in Book 1 because it was too short to flesh them out. Exit Strategy had the same weakness. I still don’t feel like I know the supporting characters. That said, some of them actually stood out.

I could envision their personalities in my mind’s eye, which fills me with glee because I can’t wait to see what Martha does with them in the next book.

mbjjnr8@gmail.com

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