Review of Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells – recently published

A nice mix of mystery and science fiction…

I’m a big fan of mysteries, and I like to read mysteries set in places that are new to me – or in this case, imaginary places that are new to me!  Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells fills that bill quite nicely.   

Our protagonist, Murderbot, is a security droid, currently on Preservation Station as part of Dr. Mensah’s entourage.   But Murderbot is a security droid with a difference – it has eluded its previous owners and has an unusual degree of autonomy, a very nice touch in snarkiness, and a PhD in hair-splitting.   (One of my favorite quotes, from Chapter 2:  “I had promised not to hack Station systems.  Nobody had said anything about not setting up my own systems.”)   

As this very short book opens, Murderbot has found a dead human in the Station mall.  Murderbot tries the classic “if I had done this, I would have done it better, and you’d never have found the body” excuse – which is probably actually true for Murderbot.   But it soon realizes that isn’t going to fly, and it is going to have to help figure out what led to the human’s death, and, of course, find the killer.    As a seasoned mystery reader, I enjoyed watching Murderbot track down clues (and a few red herrings), communicate with witnesses (both human and not), and finally figure out whodunnit at the end.  

But I also felt that the best part of Fugitive Telemetry was watching Murderbot adapt and grow into its new situation, complete with all the benefits and difficulties its increased autonomy represents.   I had not read any previous Murderbot tales, but Wells does a good job of skillfully filling in some backstory without slowing things down.    I still came away, though, with a bit of a feeling that I had missed a few things, and so now I am very much looking forward to going back and reading the earlier short stories and novellas in the series. 

All-in-all, I really enjoyed Fugitive Telemetry, which reminded me of a very nice cross of an Isaac Asimov robot story with a Rex Stout mystery – with Murderbot as a two-in-one combination of ultra-logical Wolfe and sardonic Archie.   My only issue with the book is a sneaky feeling that it would probably have been better marketed – and priced – as a long-ish novella.  In my case, I was lucky enough to receive an advance review copy.   But when I headed to my favorite e-book store to buy it (I liked it that much), it was quite pricey for as short as it is.     Hopefully it will drop a bit in price after it’s been out for a while!   As for a rating, I don’t tend to give a lot of five-star ratings, but, aside from the length/price issue, Fugitive Telemetry was a delight from start to finish, so five-stars it is!   And my thanks to Tor/Forge and NetGalley for the aforementioned ARC…

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