Spoiler Space: Fugitive Telemetry

I started the new Murderbot at 2AM when it dropped into my mailbox. Technology is a wonderful thing. Since we’re going to want to talk about it, I’m putting this post up so we’ll have the comments as a spoiler space.



52 thoughts on “Spoiler Space: Fugitive Telemetry

  1. Did you deliberately stay up and wait for it to come in at 2 or was it more of a serendipitous thing? I am waiting for my paper copy which is supposed to be in the mail. Hopefully not like the check is in the mail!

  2. I usually fall asleep naturally about three or four, but I’ve been known to get interested in something and still be awake when the sun comes up. I’m basically a vampire bat. Do not expect me to do mornings, though.

    I finished it last night, it’s not novel-length. It has pros and cons, like any book, but I’ll keep my mouth shut until more have read it.

  3. I was oddly nervous about it, possibly because of how much I was looking forward to it. But it was delightful! Not being too spoiler-y, but the lines, “You know you don’t like musical theater.” “Yes, but I like to watch other people enjoy it. Are you coming?” were so incredibly heartwarming that I teared up a little, mostly out of relief, I think.

    1. The parts with Mensah, Pin Lee, Ratthi were great, but Gurathin was the best. I love the slow evolution of their working relationship.

      1. Yes, yes, this. Loved it. And how neither of them want to look like they care – must tell someone to tell Gurathin to get his glasses checked. No way it would tell him itself. But Gurathin wanting to know if the bag worked.

  4. Why, why, why do I have to work when all I want to do is sit on furniture like a human and read/listen to media? (Complains in Murderbot.) (seriously, I have a Zoom meeting for the temp job and gave to do actual work for day job.)

  5. I wish I was more attached to this one like I am the rest of them–I kind of felt like it was a one-off side adventure without all that much “Murderbot has to deal with humans, uncomfortable feelings ensue” stuff that I love. I liked seeing the ol’ gang and I loved the musical line above, but I didn’t feel like MB was all that different from the start to the finish? Indah felt like the one major character that had any effect and it was more of a”get Indah to cooperate” sort of thing rather than potential for friendship.

    I feel bad feeling like that. Maybe it’s just me?

    1. No, that was my take, too.

      The other stories all showed it changing, evolving, accepting the human parts of it, meeting new challenges, growing neural pathways because of it. This is just a day in the life of Murderbot who doesn’t change. The story was fun, Murderbot is always fun, but it read like something you’d put on a website for free instead of a fully thought-out novel.

      I was thinking of the Abigail book in comparison after I finished it. It was a novella, but it was complex, it showcased a minor character changing and possibly starting another project in a different part of that story world, but most of all, Abigail did change. She learned. Well, she’s fourteen, she’s going to do a lot of learning, but she struck out on her own, built her fox team, and outsmarted a malevolent supernatural force.

      Murderbot saved some people, thereby convincing station security it was more than a weapon.It felt like the beginning of Network Effect, that part where he saves a lot of people (that we know and like), repels boarders, and escapes. That was the set-up for the kidnapping and then the assault on the planet. If there’d been something similar after the rescue, if that was just the first move in a book about the refugees or about station security repelling GrayCris or anything else that had been deeper, I’d have loved it. As it is, I enjoyed reading it, but I got to the end and thought, “Wait. That’s it?” Murderbot deserves better.

      1. I wonder if part of that feeling comes from the timeline? Because I read the first four novellas over the past few days and for me, Murderbot’s character growth is in the first moment when it reluctantly decides to call Ratthi and Gurathin and then the next time it reaches out to them and says, “I need help,” no preamble. I can’t remember a single time in the first four novellas where Murderbot asked for help, or expected to get it. It did get help sometimes — like when Mensah saves it in the first book or they open the gate for it when it’s trapped after rescuing her — but it never assumed that it could have help by asking for it. But we’ve all already read Network Effect and so the growth is something that we’ve already seen, even though this is the first time it’s shown.

        I was actually expecting that lack, more or less, because I knew it took place before Network Effect. I was more worried that it wouldn’t be fun, that it would be all trauma survivor/emotional angst. I thought it was a nice little enclosed murder mystery with an excellent twist ending. I did not spot the villain, anyway, and I’m usually good at that. I particularly appreciated realizing how much my own biases prevented me from seeing the villain — in the classic “the butler did it” scenario, the reason no one suspects the butler is because servants were invisible. Apparently bots are, too.

        1. I’m with you for all the same reasons. I was expecting a filler that gave some background on how his role developed on Preservation, and that’s what we got alongside a fun little mystery. We see charger arc, but it’s more ‘oh here’s how it had changed, target than through this book – like when it thighs that following the human was “like being a SecUnit again” – it no longer thinks of itself as a SecUnit…? Kinda fan service

          For me though, I really liked seeing the friendships. Sitting on the corner of Mensah’s desk while she rants.

          I also liked the bits that shed light on life – humans not trusting things we ourselves have made (what were we thinking when we make them? Did we even think of the consequences? No, human condition).

          1. So many typos. Hope you can wade through
            *his ➡️ Its
            *Character arc

      2. Yes, I EXACTLY thought that this felt like the free stories!

        Glad I’m not alone 😉

    2. Hi Jennifer… you replied to me on the Tor.com comment thread about Fugitive Telemetry, and mentioned that there were people on this blog who felt the same way we both did. I just wanted to thank you. I’d actually never tried Jennifer Cruise’s work, but I got curious once I’d read this thread. I’m now halfway through Bet Me and it’s giving me the good reading experience I’d hoped/expected to have from FT.

  6. Just finished it. It was different but I enjoyed it. I did feel there were a few loose ends and missed opportunities. But readable, lively, and fun … just what I was needed.

    1. As a side note, I am listening to Network Effect, read by Kevin R Free who does an excellent job as a narrator 😊

  7. I didn’t read my email after midnight last night, so I didn’t know it was ready to read until I woke up, so I just finished. I enjoyed it. But I don’t remember if I read anywhere where this story is positioned relative to Network Effect. I’d swear it’s just before or early in that book, before he took out the assassins.

  8. I enjoyed because it’s Murderbot but I was a bit confused by the timeline. I was expecting Murderbot off on adventures with ART. Instead we were back on Preservation and I assume before the novel otherwise we were missing an explanation about where ART was. And I think I was expecting another novel not a novella length. I did like the other bots.

    1. Also, wasn’t Tiffany the officer hanging on to GrayCris Assassin #2? Here she’s a stranger, so Book #5 of 6 in order.

          1. You know, Gary, you can carry open-mindedness too far (g).

            Fine, it’s Tiphany.

            Actually, I kind of like that.

    2. Yes, it’s also kind of a disappointment it’s not the Murderbot/ART book we were all expecting.

  9. I stayed up far too late last night and read it – and I enjoyed it but ….

    I knew it was a prequel to Network Effect so the lack of ART didn’t disappoint me (well, it did, but that disappointment wasn’t a surprise) but it was missing quite a bit of stuff I love in the other books.

    There wasn’t as much as I expected about Murderbot’s pathological fear of having emotions about real people. And hardly any I-don’t-have-emotions breakdowns that’d make it want to just stop everything and watch Sanctuary Moon.

    And it didn’t have the chaotic, multi-threaded action scenes where Murderbot deals with 3 totally different threads at once.

    It was nice to see Murderbot interacting with Ratthi and Gurathin and especially seeing it actually ask for help and get it. And the plot seemed pretty sound to me – I didn’t work out the murderer either. So, solid story but I was expecting more. It felt like this book was mostly about the plot, whereas I read Murderbot about 90% for the people.

    1. Yes, it wasn’t nearly as complex as the other novel and novellas.
      It was fun, but it wasn’t up to the standard of the rest.

      1. I would have put it with Rogue Protocol (#3), except that the lessons learned are opposites. In RP, Miki is killed and Murderbot learns that human beings are capable of loving bots, and in FT, Murderbot gets shot in the back by the people it’s trying to rescue, and re-learns that human beings are assholes. It’s a much less appealing message.

        Also, I’m so surprised to discover that they’re listing it as Book 6 and there’s nothing in the book description that reveals that it takes place before Network Effect. I would have been SO disappointed in it if I hadn’t known ahead of time that the story wouldn’t be moving forward. That description does a lousy job of setting appropriate expectations for the reader. (I bought it the day it was announced, sometime last year, so must not have seen that description before.)

  10. I felt it was changing subtly. It sits with humans, it is adjusting to different humans without assuming most are stupid, it’s smoother. It’s adjusting to being itself.

    As this book happens all in a single day I wouldn’t expect much change from morning to night, but it’s definitely a jam packed day! I find stories that take place in a brief time period have less emotional scope than longer tales.

  11. I’ve read it twice. I knew ahead of time that it was before Network Effect and had no ART. If I didn’t know that, I would have been disappointed.

    Murderbot did have huge character development in this one. For the first time, it was openly being itself with humans that it doesn’t completely trust.* It trusts Preservation to be the place where that is ok. It also asks for help. It doesn’t even do that in Network Effect. In Network Effect we see Murderbot being itself with only a small, select group of humans.

    Note that the human who shoots it only saw Murderbot pretending to be human.

    This book was about how the bots and constructs could fit into a society. The identity of the murderer is important for this theme.

    *I guess humans it is about to eviscerate is another category of people to whom it is openly itself!

    1. It felt like all those changes happened before this story, and we were just seeing the results, possibly paying off previous books. That is, I didn’t see anything in this that changed its attitude toward Ratthi and Gurathin. It had always liked Ratthi, and the arc with Gurathin was in the previous books; nothing happened in this one to make that change. It was great that it said, “I need help,” but there wasn’t an interaction that showed that change on the page. I loved it that it sat on the edge of Mensah’s desk, I loved everything about the team interactions (Pin Lee may be my favorite), so any time these characters show up, I’m going to be happy, but the thing about the Murderbot books is that taken together they’re a character journey, almost a picaro, and this is just Murderbot doing stuff, interesting stuff, but if I’d never read it, I could still enjoy the next book, Network Effect. I loved Network Effect without reading this. I wouldn’t have as much without Artificial Condition and the rest of the novellas; these really need to be read in order, I think. And Book Six which is really Book Four and Half isn’t necessary to understand anything.

      This one has no real layers and (gulp) no real stakes. If Murderbot loses, it doesn’t lose anything; Mensah will still care for it, the team will still support it, and even Indah will recognize that it fought the good fight. It has nothing at stake except that it likes to save humans.

      When you think about the other conflicts its had, there have been stakes, big ones. It’s fighting for its life and the people it loves. It’s fighting to get ART back, it’s fighting to save a team it doesn’t know that treats its bot like a much-loved person, it’s fighting to save a young human that trusts it, it matters if it fails. This fight is in the abstract all the way through, right down to the end where it realizes that the bot it’s fighting isn’t even the bot it thought it knew, a combat bot killed that one and took its body as a disguise.

      I’m probably not making sense here, but in the end, it felt like it was fighting a Dalek who wasn’t threatening anything personal to Murderbot. Yes, it was a corporate bot trying to enslave people, but if this had been more fully developed, Murderbot would have gotten to know a couple of those refugees so that the enslaved part has emotional depth, had interactions that led to change, had to make hard decisions (see Network Effect and Murderbot 2, that was devastating), and probably more than anything, had developed some kind of connection to the bot that got killed, the way he connected with Miki against his will.

      That’s why it felt like a first draft to me, getting the story on paper before going on to layer in the emotional depths that were so strong in the other books. Although it is true that it’s damn hard to develop emotional depths in series detective stories. I just thought this could have been so much more.

      BUT I also think that I’m now setting a really high standard for Wells based on her previous Murderbots, which isn’t fair. It’s the old “I expect more from this author,” instead of asking “Did I enjoy reading this?” And hell yes, I did. It’s Murderbot and Mensa and Pin Lee and the gang so of course it was fun. I’m going to re-read tonight, after I clean out some more soot. That should cheer me up.

      1. That’s it, exactly. Nothing really at stake for Murderbot. I didn’t even really feel like it was in much physical danger.

  12. I also thought this one was thin compared to the others. But I’m also trying to remember reading the others for the first time- my appreciation of the complexities has grown with each reading, so it’s possible this one will, too. Maybe not since it’s so short. It occurred to me that this might have been something she tried to fit into either #4 or #5, but it got cut and she fleshed it out (so to speak) and made it into a novella. I’m not complaining much—it was definitely a fun read. I had some tedious work to do today, and the audio was plenty entertaining enough to keep me going to the end. (I read the last fifteen pages while sitting in the recovery area after getting my second covid shot. I might even have stayed a few minutes longer than I needed to.)(It bears saying that one of my favorite things about MB is its use of parentheses, always having been partial to them myself.)

  13. I have a question for the writerly types on here. Many, if not most people, here who have just finished Fugitive Telemetry are complaining it didn’t have as much character development as the previous stories. But since this story is set between two previous stories, just how much character development could the author fit in between them? Because it can’t have changes that weren’t in Network Effect, or that would have changed that character arc at all.

  14. I think if I had read this story in its proper chronological order, I’d have enjoyed it. It wasn’t as twisty as some of the previous ones, and there wasn’t as much of the flailing / don’t-want-to-interact-with-humans-but-I-must-save-their-dumb-asses-or-who-will-make-my-shows internal monologs that I love… but after book 5, this was a let-down. (Not a horrible one, but I’d been really really needing that immersion in another world b/c work is just insane and I’m tired of everyone flailing around and looking at me for answers and I can’t kill them and holy shit they are idiots and I’m having to TALK to people all damned day and I really can’t kill them and omg, I am secretly Murderbot.) (sigh)

    1. I told my therapist that the other day. “Murderbot is somebody who has to do whatever its owners say, and then it has a traumatic event and hacks his governor module so that it’s free, and not it listens to stories all the time.” That’s my life, right there.

      I wonder how much of the passion people have for Murderbot, beyond the excellent writing and great storytelling, is that vicarious experience of hacking the governor and walking away from everybody, free. That’s got to be a pretty common fantasy.

  15. I’ve wondered if this was set-up for future books with a new corporate villain.
    The conductor of the ‘Underground railway’ has been murdered, the evil mining company is apparently aware of the siphoning off of the kids born into corporate slavery, and at least one of the pick-up ships is now likely to be known because of their connection with this murder investigation.
    That leaves those kids and young people in the power of that corporation, which I think would sit badly with some of the people of Preservation, and with other links in the anti-slavery chain.

    I think once the present corporate menace has been dealt with adequately (for now), there might be a follow-up exploring what can be done to save the extant links and re-start that rescue operation (unofficially of course, when people Murderbot knows who now know about this situation get drawn in).

    Ms.Wells in the interview linked above said this book was about developing the relationship between Murderbot and station security (necessary as set-up for how tgese behave towards each other in Network Effect), and Murderbot starting to think about having colleagues. This it does.
    I think if you read the series in internal chronological sequence, this is a part of that progression towards the character development we saw in Network Effect.

    But I really don’t like the awful place the broken chain of the Underground railway leaves those kids born into corporate slavery, and the earlier parts of that escape chain, so I hope she picks that up and thinks of something to improve that situation in those further 3 Murderbot books she’s contracted for.

    The combination of information from the autopsy report about the shape of the weapon, and the mention of the murderer’s hands in an unrelated action, were the point at which I figured it out as a likely possibility (not a certainty)… I hope that’s cryptic enough!

    1. This is a spoiler space, you don’t have to be cryptic, but thank you.

      I think my problem is that this is short and not complex and was sold as part of a series, not as a fill-in motivation for a book I’ve already read. Network Effect works just fine without this story. This story would have worked just fine as an intro to a novel about the outrage you just described. On it’s own, it’s still a good story, but it reads like the introduction to something bigger, the way the conflict on the boat set up the bigger conflict in Network Effect. It would also have been great as a freebie on a website to set up the next novel about the refugee kids. But it sets up nothing and could be dropped from the series without harming the narrative, and on its own, it seems rushed and undeveloped.

      I love the Murderbot books, and I’ll read them all again and again. I started to reread this one and just wandered off and picked something else up. It’s still got the wonderful world building and the great characters, and Wells is a beautifully fluid writer, but this reads like an early draft of the beginning a novel. I like the idea of Murderbot following up on the refugee kids, not the least because they’re a parallel to its situation, but this was only good, not great.

    1. That’s an excellent review. I really like this paragraph:

      If it wants to prove that it can be better and deserves the freedom to live the life it has chosen, it has to follow the rules imposed on it by the society that has (barely) chosen to accept it. But if it wants to solve this murder, answer some important questions and prove how much better it is than all the annoying humans holding it back (never a small concern), all it has to do is bust out the arm lasers and the virus programs, and hack and murder its way to a speedy answer. It’s an ends/means question. And Wells, in the complex architecture of systems and society she has created to surround the narrative, doesn’t offer any easy solutions.

      I recognized that conflict while reading it but not emphasized. I might reread the book in light of that.

      1. But how is that different from the first five books? They’ve all been about Murderbot slowly integrating into human systems. The only change I saw here was that Indah trusted it and invited it to work with Security again. Maybe that’s why this felt thin and incomplete to me: It felt like set-up for the rest of the story, Murderbot integrating with the Security systems, extending its team/group of humans it trusts in order to . . . what? There’s the refugee problem, but no indication that Murderbot’s going to do anything about it (which is logical). The set-up in Network Effect is that Murderbot will be working with ART and the university and probably Mensah’s daughter since she was looking at the college catalog. There was no emotional depth aside from Murderbot being annoyed every now and then; all the fun came from Murderbot’s interactions with Mensah and PinLee and Ratthi and (always) Gurathin).

        I just read it again, and put it down three times because I was tired of Murderbot explaining things to me, like how Station Security works. And since I never really had a grasp on the investigation, I never got the mystery as it unfolded. Not to mention in spite of everything that was clearly explained, Murderbot just hand waved over how the slaver company found the combat unit and accessed it. Ah ha, the combat unit was hidden inside a nice bot and waited forty-seven years to be activated, and somehow Bad Guys found the activation codes, and then the bot realized it was outnumbered and shut itself down. Huh?

        Nobody I cared about was ever threatened. Nobody who was threatened (refugees) was ever given a name or personality, they were just faceless unfortunates. Nothing changed because the bot was defeated; everybody on Preservation was had always been safe, was still safe. I doubt I’ll ever read it again, which is huge for me and Murderbot, I reread those obsessively.

        But okay, it’s not supposed to be like the other Murderbots, this is a mystery. Fine, where’s the cast of vivid suspects where I’m trying to puzzle out the relationships with the victim? Where’s the escalation in the threat, the escalating conflict between detective and murderer? The Evil Bot pretty much sits there until Murderbot attacks it. This is a mystery in the way that all the Murderbots are mysteries: it’s Murderbot trying to figure out what the hell is going on so it can protect humans. This is not in any way a classic whodunnit.

        Sigh. I’ll shut up now.

  16. I think that this book was more about fleshing out the metaphor of Murderbot as an asexual minority in reaction to the last year or so of current events than it was about our beloved character.

    In other stories we see people reacting to a secunit with fear, etc. This one goes more in-depth and it reminds me of conversations with people who don’t believe that they are racist or prejudiced but kinda still are. I was talking to a coworker about the doctor Seuss books that are being taken out of print and she felt that people just need to be less easily offended. I tried to explain to her that my partner, who doesn’t offend easily, was offended by the depiction of asian people. And the africans really didn’t age well. We agree that they should be left as teaching tools, not discontinued, but that is another debate.

    Anyway, the repeated small issues that Murderbot has in this book felt like that. We acknowledge that we should treat you like a person, but you still need to wear a warning label, etc. It’s more about the progression of the human minds around it than the growth of it’s own personhood.

    I’m glad I still liked it. I was worried. Probably not going to reread it as much as the others, but I appreciated the slower pace. I have been feeling a little worn out emotionally and was hesitant to start this one because I was expecting another tear jerker like Network Effect.

  17. So interesting how differently it lands for different people. I find it a very acceptable segue between the existing stories……. we already knew from Network Effect that it had been working well with security, but no how that was achieved, which honestly always bugged me a bit. It is heavier on plot, but there were so many things I loved – particularly the one security person asking if it learned to swear from PinLee.

    Jenny said “If Murderbot loses, it doesn’t lose anything; Mensah will still care for it, the team will still support it, and even Indah will recognize that it fought the good fight. It has nothing at stake except that it likes to save humans.” I feel it knows this by the end, but didn’t know it at the beginning – well, except for Dr Mensah still loving it. I don’t think it knew how to be part of any team beside the original exploration team, and now it does, so my growth requirement was satisfied.

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