Fugitive Telemetry – by Martha Wells (Review)

Murderbot Diaries #6

Scifi, Novella

Tor.com; April 27, 2021

176 pages (ebook)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

4.5 / 5 ✪

I was kindly provided with a review copy in exchange for an honest review. This in no way alters or affects my opinion. Many thanks to Tor, Tor.com & NetGalley for the ARC! All opinions are my own.

Warning: Contains spoilers for Murderbot Diaries #1-5

Fresh off Murderbot’s first full-length novel, Fugitive Telemetry returns to the novella format which takes place prior to the events of Network Effect, but after those of Exit Strategy. So just forget about all the things you’ve probably forgot about already and let’s get started.

When a dead human is left in the middle of one of the main corridors of Preservation, it’s up to Murderbot to find the culprit before they kill again. Or, you know, before more humans whine to it.

The first question: did Murderbot kill the human?

No, it didn’t. And if it did, it wouldn’t leave the dead human out in the open.

But—in a shocking twist—since Murderbot has the most experience with dead humans, it is tasked with helping the port authorities discover the real killer before they kill again.

I’d forgotten how much I missed this. It’s really hard to remember just what the first couple novellas really excelled at (as they both presented a likable, antisocial non-human, yet oh-so human lead) when there’s been no letdown. All the novellas were good, as was the feature-length novel. But Fugitive Telemetry exceeds all expectations. Here is a Murderbot in its native habitat—solving a mystery with some would-be allies who don’t trust it, stalking a shadowy killer before they strike again.

It gives the same vibe as All Systems Red or Artificial Condition—the first few novellas, back when it was still a Rogue SecUnit surrounded by enemies—but with more pert and polish to the writing, the story. For who could be the murderer? It could be anyone: GrayCris, come to finish the job; another rogue SecUnit, come to meet the legend; random humans, serial killers, aliens—it could literally be anyone. Except Murderbot. At least… it doesn’t THINK it did it, but how would it know? It’s named MURDERbot, after all. And if its human “allies” were to learn this, they’d probably suspect it to. And so it has to find the killer so it can go back to watching media in peace, without being interrupted for every dead human that turns up.

The last thing that I’m going to mention is Murderbot’s character arc. It went on quite the progression through the original four diary entries. From a nameless, faceless AI soldier to a rogue and killer. Then to a would-be savior, a freedom fighter, a mercenary, a consultant, then finally a trusted friend. Network Effect rather missed out on adding to this arc. Now, there’s some progression there, sure, but there’s almost as much regression. Fugitive Telemetry—set before the events of Network Effect—continues the original character arc, presenting a character more reminiscent of what appears in the later novel. And, as much as I’d like to know what happens after the events of the novel itself, I think Murderbot still has a bit more to tell before we come to that.

And yet, there’s an problem. I have one problem with Fugitive Telemetry. ONE. The price is ridiculous. $12 ebook, $18 physical for a 170 page novella is just stupid, no matter how good it is. Ebook prices being what they are… it’s not the time or place to get into this. Sufficient to say that $12 is too much for an ebook, a novella—even one as outstanding as this.

9 thoughts on “Fugitive Telemetry – by Martha Wells (Review)

  1. Really glad to see you enjoyed this one. Granted, I skipped over some of the review, as I’ve done with others for this book. I don’t want to know anything about it until I read it. I was surprised, though, too see it falls between Exit Strategy and Network Effect. And I completely agree with you on the novella ebook pricing. All the Murderbot ebooks I’ve purchased have been when Tor was running sales so I got them for far more reasonable prices, and I’m hoping that will eventually happen with this one. I’m sometimes a very patient man, but I really want to read this one so we’ll see… With the novel I’d’ve been happy to spend the normal amount for the paper version but ended up receiving it as a gift, so perfectly happy there! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Understandable. I try to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but sometimes it’s best not to know anything going into a book.

      I read the first four through the library, but then got the ebook versions through the Tor Book Club… last year? The problem with that is that sometimes you really want to read something and can’t wait for a sale, so you’re stuck paying full price 😞


  2. Nailed it. This one was excellent, but I also completely agree with you on the prices of these books. It’s currently the biggest obstacle preventing the success of this series, Murderbot can be much bigger if more people could get their hands on the books, but the cost of each novella is so restrictive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s almost as if they know that people who’ve read the early ones will buy these later ones regardless of whatever price they slap on it.


      1. Maybe it’s naive, but in this case, I really do think the publisher has a better chance at making more money by decreasing their profit margin but vastly increasing the volume of sales. Times are tough for a lot of people right now, who might not be as willing to shell out, even for a beloved series, as they used to. Not surprisingly, the waitlist for these books are a million miles long at my library!


  3. The price comparison between full-novel ebooks and novella ebooks tends to be annoying granted, particularly considering that there is no paper&ink consumption involved…
    That said, for a Murderbot story I’m always ready to go the extra length, and maybe the publishers are aware of this, and behave accordingly 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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