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Exit Strategy: The Murderbot Diaries (Book Review)

Exit Strategy is a fitting end to the marvelous Murderbot Diaries, giving a final huzzah to a character I’ve grown to love over the past year. The fourth addition to the series concludes the journey our favorite bot set out on, complete with moments of peril, fear, and feels. Wells continues to focus on Murderbot’s brilliant personality while showing us the human parts that have continued to grow from the beginning. It’s a well-written, fast-paced final jaunt and I’m ecstatic to know this isn’t the end for our sassy, soap-opera-obsessed protagonist.

EXIT STRATEGY: THE MURDERBOT DIARIES

By Martha Wells
Tor.com

Quick Summary: Murderbot is on the way to finish the mission they started: bringing the evil GrayCris corporation to justice amidst a growing pile of scandals. A friend is in danger and Murderbot will stop at nothing to free her. Strategic thinking, sarcasm and battles ensue. 

WHAT I LOVED ABOUT IT

Murderbot’s main allure is their ability to think four hundred steps ahead, constantly hacking into every system to gain the upper hand on enemies, both known and unknown. It’s an important plot element throughout all four books and done masterfully in this final installment. Wells has a brilliant way of getting us into Murderbot’s head in a way I haven’t seen with many protagonists. True, we often get to hear the thoughts of most main characters, but it’s the thought processes and logic patterns that are fascinating in this instance. I can only imagine the plot mapping she had to do for this series, and I applaud how effortless it all seems. I came to these books for the hilariously grumpy robot and stayed for the great writing and story progression.

This has been a constant struggle within Murderbot as they try to justify where they belong on the scale from human to machine. Try as they may, the feels keep intensifying, leaving them in unfamiliar territory. We’ve seen them help people they didn’t need to help and make decisions that could only come from a place of emotion. In Exit Strategy, those feelings come to a head as Murderbot reunites with Dr. Mensah, the lost friend who has always had their best interests at heart. They finally admit to feeling emotions, to enjoying human clothing, to lounging on couches. For the first time, Murderbot wants to be in this human world, even if it’s just a little bit. There are those moments where they yearn for the days of watching soap operas 24/7 in deep space, but these emotions, coupled with the importance of their relationships, keep them grounded in the human world. 

I’ve loved Wells’ approach to action in the series, and this entry is no exception. The slow build up through strategic planning and careful considerations gives rise to an explosive climactic action scene, complete with an epic hurricane of bots and drones. It’s tense and nail biting, and was a delight to read. I also appreciate the subtlety Wells takes when it comes to fight scenes. You’d think a book about a character named Murderbot would be nothing but endless fighting, tearing off limbs and showing no remorse. Instead, it’s carefully crafted and perfectly timed to deliver the biggest bang for our buck. 

Dr. Mensah is a character I forgot I loved. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen her, and the return is both heartwarming and hopeful. She is Murderbot’s emotional dynamite because she doesn’t see them as a deadly machine, but as a human that deserved every modicum of respect and freedom. Even in times of peril, she doesn’t back down from what she believes in, risking her life, time and time again, to leave no one behind. She’s an admirable leader. 

Four books would typically be the maximum limit for me when following a series. It just gets to be too much of one character and I move on. Murderbot has changed that for me. I feel like I’ve barely gotten to know this series and these characters and can’t wait to return to the planned novel follow-up. Murderbot is left with the universe in front of them and no enemies waiting in the wings. There’s a lot that could happen and I look forward to experiencing it.

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