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Exit strategy by Martha Wells
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Exit strategy (edition 2018)

by Martha Wells

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2832659,605 (4.27)29
Member:jen.e.moore
Title:Exit strategy
Authors:Martha Wells
Info:New York : Tor Books, October 2018.
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:science fiction, artificial intelligence, personhood

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Exit Strategy: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

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The adventures of our beloved SecUnit have come to an end - at least as far as this cycle of novellas is concerned, since a full-length novel has been announced, to the utter delight of all us MurderBot fans. So Exit Strategy does not mark the final farewell to a character that has grown in complexity and facets as the overall story progressed, but on the other hand it marks the closing of the circle, so to speak, because MurderBot moves once more into the sphere of the former clients it protected in All Systems Red, and completes the mission it had tasked itself with once it decided to turn rogue.

In the previous installment, MB had managed to collect some incriminating evidence that might enable it to uncover the deadly, illegal activities of GrayCris, and its intention was to take it to Dr. Mensah, the scientist who had seen beyond the unit's detached façade and wanted to give it freedom and equal status. Learning however that GrayCris is fighting back on two levels - openly in court, attacking Mensah, and more stealthily by later abducting Mensa herself - it decides to launch into a rescue operation and joins with Mensah's colleagues, offering its help and specialized skills.

The result is a breathtakingly humorous tale of a battle with the corporation's operatives that is fought on many levels: there are a few physical engagements, granted, but most of MurderBot's strategy is geared toward system hacking and misdirection, with a wide variety of tactics that made me often think of some of the most famous cinematic heists, like Ocean's Eleven and its brethren, with the difference that instead of a group of skilled individuals acting in concert, here we have a lone SecUnit that has raised multitasking to an exquisite art form.

And here comes the first admission that MurderBot's experiences have wrought important changes to its mental structure, that working and thinking "outside the box" has expanded its limits, or what it perceived as such:

[…] all this coding and working with different systems on the fly had opened up some new neural pathways and processing space.

Not only that, but its observation of humans - both in real life and through the media that MB consumes with voracity - taught it to discern between behavioral patterns, to the point that it's able to spot the corporation operatives as they try to pass for normal tourists in a crowded station, while their affected nonchalance is evident to the SecUnit, thanks to its studies on the body language it tried to mimic in its attempt to pass as an enhanced human.

With such awareness comes however the far more uncomfortable one about the SecUnit's potential where feelings are concerned, something that it kept trying to deny with ever-dwindling conviction, something it has to finally deal with here and acknowledge it's part of its own makeup, a side of its personality that has nothing to do with the programming it received but comes straight from what - and who - MurderBot is:

“It was too late for you to help them, then.” […] “But you wanted to.”
“I’m programmed to help humans.”
Eyebrow lift again. ”You’re not programmed to watch media.”
She had a point.


It's the first, uneasy admission that it might be more than the mere assembly of organic and mechanic parts that constitute a SecUnit, and that the bothersome feelings that were the cause of much anxiety and stress in the past, and of extreme dislike when they manifested themselves, might be part and parcel of the new entity that still calls itself MurderBot, but is not anymore. The first glimmers of that reluctant acceptance can be seen when it meets with Mensah's former colleagues and they greet it as an old friend, but the real moment of truth comes as it reunites with Mensah, the first person who saw MurderBot as a person (as uncomfortable as that was back then): in what looks like a spur-of-the-moment concession, no matter all the justifications it gives itself, the SecUnit gives Mensah permission to touch it:

I braced myself and made the ultimate sacrifice. “Uh, you can hug me if you need to.”
She started to laugh, then her face did something complicated and she hugged me. I upped the temperature in my chest and told myself it was like first aid.


It was such a delightful scene, and to me it was the first voluntary step toward the Big Unknown represented by the feelings that MurderBot had always kept away from, not out of sheer refusal, but out of fear:

I hadn’t ben afraid that she wasn’t my friend, I had been afraid that she was, and what it did to me.

With this momentous scene Exit Strategy seals the end of MurderBot's first phase of change, one that through the first four novellas showed the slow but unavoidable development of a creature that for some reason was able to overcome its programming and moved in an unexpected direction. Now that the transformations in its outward appearance have enhanced its organic (human…) side, and that it has accepted the feelings that it started experiencing vicariously through its beloved media shows, it will be fascinating to see where Martha Wells will take it and what further surprises MurderBot has in store for us.

And I can't wait… ( )
  SpaceandSorcery | Apr 5, 2019 |
Another action-packed story, and another step in the development of Murderbot’s personality. She has to confront Dr Mensah, her captors, a deadly combat SecUnit, a small army of murderous agents, hack innumerable systems... but the hardest part is figuring out these pesky things called emotions. The friendliness of people is the most terrifying to our media-loving AI introvert... ( )
  Gezemice | Mar 8, 2019 |
Final book in the Murderbot trilogy. ( )
  phyllis2779 | Feb 23, 2019 |
The story of the Murderbot from "All Systems Red" continues in this 4th of four novellas. I've been wanting (and expecting) the story to get to this place ( reconnect with the original team) since the first book, but this installment of the story felt very repetitive of things from the earlier stories - super-hacking abilities, robot angst, snarky humor, and the need to recap in various ways prior events in the story to refresh a reader's memory, but also to allow someone to read this novella as a standalone. The recap stuff is done reasonably well, but still, it is duplicative of things we already know from the earlier books. To be fair, this happens in many series books.

Aside from that. the action in this book is written well, very exciting and I enjoyed how it played out.

It seems funny to me to get emotionally tied to a cyborg-like robot, but you do in these books. This short series has been a fun offbeat trip, I'll give it that. ( )
  RBeffa | Feb 4, 2019 |
Maybe not quite as good as the previous three novellas in the series (particularly 1 & 3) this does appear to wrap up the sequence dealing with the conflict between Dr. Mensah & her colleagues and the GrayChris Corporation as Murderbot decides it has to intervene when it gets the news that Mensah is an apparent hostage of GrayChris. The live question is what does the corporate management really want: Money? Revenge? Or possibly something more. If you've read the preceding books you'll certainly want to read this one. Then we'll see what Wells does with the full-length novel. ( )
  Shrike58 | Jan 27, 2019 |
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