Fugitive Telemetry is the latest installment in the Murderbot Diaries but chronologically, its events take place before those of Book 5 (Network Effect) but after Book 4 (Exit Strategy). This is a “whodunnit” set on Preservation Station, where MB’s guardian Dr. Mensah, suffering from PTSD, is a respected Councilor. Preservation Station is a non-corporate entity with a proud history of independence and respect for individual rights, whether one is human, bot or augmented human (a human/bot hybrid). Anyone can come to Preservation Station for sanctuary and apply for refugee status. The problem is that MB is a rogue SecUnit — a hybrid with a reputation for extreme violence. As such, most people who meet a SecUnit, even on Preservation Station, believe the worst stereotypes about them. Dr. Mensah and her team know better and are working on establishing refugee status for MB, but in the meantime, MB provides private security services for Mensah, her family and her crew. When a dead body is found on the station, Mensah sees an opportunity for MB to assist station authorities and prove its worth. Those authorities, however, are nervous about working with MB; in order to prove that MB is not going to use its formidable skills to overpower and kill everyone, it must agree not to use its intelligence to hack the station’s systems even though it would make it way easier to investigate the murder. MB finds Preservation’s security to be far too lax for its liking anyway, but agrees to help the investigation and goes about it in an old school way — looking for clues and interviewing potential witnesses.
In the course of investigating the murder, Murderbot realizes that the few cameras on the station that could provide evidence have been tampered with and that it is likely that the murder was an inside job. Someone on the station facilitated this violence, but who would do it and why? When Murderbot and the investigators discover that the murder is also linked to smuggling, it become imperative to find the answers immediately before more innocent people die. Of course, as the investigation proceeds, those who had had their doubts about Murderbot’s reliability and safety begin to see that they were wrong and what an asset MB is to their work. These are baby steps toward dismantling the stereotypes surrounding SecUnits, but steps in the right direction nonetheless.
As usual, Wells writes with wit and biting humor while dealing with some important social justice matters. This novel also features some pretty funny passages involving other types of bots on Preservation. One bot, as some kind of joke, calls itself “JollyBaby,” which the other bots think is hilarious but MB finds just stupid and irritating. Then there’s Balin, the cargo “management” bot that mostly just stands around and watches while others work. Perfect.
The resolution to the mystery is quite satisfying and fits in with themes that Wells addressed in Network Effect regarding autonomy and ownership for both humans and bots/hybrids. This is such a fun series to read and I’m looking forward to future installments.