Over the last year or so, I've read the first three installments in Martha Wells's Murderbot Diaries series. I've mentioned how the main character is fascinating, but that his sarcasm can get a little grating as everything is seen through his POV. Still, I like the concept and enjoy the world. I just can't read them back to back. It would be too much murderbot. But, as it's been a few months, I picked up the fourth in the series, Exit Strategy (Wells 2018), and gave it a read.
Some positives form this installment: I liked the external character development for Ren (the murderbot). We've seen (slight series spoiler ahead) Ren transition from an autonomous tool to a feeling and reasoning lifeform, but most of that development has come inside his head. He has also been mostly cautious and distancing with the humans around him. He has developed a few relationships with other digital systems, such as another bot, and the controlling AI for a space ship. In exit strategies, we see Ren's relationship with some of the humans around him proliferate, mostly getting stronger. In a way, in turn, we see him becoming more human, or at least more emotionally like us. It's good. It helps us care for him.
What I didn't like: the plot doesn't advance the series storyline very much. Ren is mostly out of danger in this book, and his overarching goal of uncovering his own memory-wiped history has just fallen away. He gets himself into danger by endeavoring to help the humans he was first liberated with, his wards from the first book. The danger they're in is clear but not largely compelling. The plot is more of a simple frame on which to build the character growth. These books are short, so I understand there is a challenge in having a great plot and excellent character development in limited pages, but I still found myself drifting on the storyline and struggling to keep my focus on it.
The fifth Murderbot Diaries book, Network Effect, is due out in May. So, I can forgive that this book is a bit transitional. Book 1 introduces the Ren and some important supporting characters, plus some action. The next two books let Ren out on his own, to try to uncover his history, and in turn gaining himself a big political enemy, plus lots more action. Now with four, we develop his relationships while stocking the fire of how powerful and far-reaching his big enemy really is. Thus, I'm giving Exit Strategies some extra credit on good faith, securing a solid four stars in my mind.
Certainly, I'll be sticking around for the fifth installment. I've come this far...