Publishers Weekly: Hugo and Nebula Award–winner Wells brings her solitude-craving, media-loving killer robot protagonist another step closer to independence in the entertaining sixth entry in the Murderbot Diaries series (after Network Effect). A dead body found in Preservation Station mall propels Murderbot, a SecUnit, into a new contract as a consultant in the murder investigation. Murderbot hopes to gain the refugee status that would enable it to stay in the Preservation Alliance, but it’s an uphill battle as rogue SecUnits are feared as unhinged killers—an unfounded fear in this case, as Murderbot wants nothing more than to catch up on its favorite soap opera in peace. Vexed by the illogical humans it’s forced to work with, Murderbot patiently explains its way through the clues it uncovers, and Senior Officer Indah can’t help being impressed with Murderbot’s investigative skills and surprisingly compassionate regard for life. Murderbot’s wry observations of human behavior are as humorous as ever and the mystery is thoroughly satisfying. This is another winning series installment.
Publishers Weekly: Burke (Semiosis) uses a futuristic world to comment on the present in this politically charged dystopian novel. In a near-future America where human clones are stigmatized as second-class citizens and an authoritarian “Prez” titillates his patriot cult with sloganeering straight out of the Big Brother playbook, a nationwide mutiny is brewing. When the government releases a vaccine against the rampaging Sino cold—purportedly to induce herd immunity nationally, but secretly to sicken the mutineers—the narrative refracts the ensuing chaos through the experiences of four characters: Avril, Irene, and Berenike, young Wisconsin women from various walks of life who discover they are clones of one another; and Peng, the scientist who cloned them and who has a hand in the virus’s release. Burke endows her characters with distinct personalities and conjures a frighteningly real sense of national destabilization as events spiral out of their control. Though the ending is somewhat anticlimactic, references to coronaviruses and a nation wracked by social unrest are sure to resonate. This hits close to home.
Shelf Awareness: Through humor and heartache, Hutchinson balances an incredible situation with the great emotional depths and fragile relationships of his characters. More than survival or love, Hutchinson’s novel is about personal identity and how we define ourselves through memories, experiences and the perceptions of others.
Martha Wells’ cranky, TV-binging Murderbot, the star and narrator of four superb novellas before this novel, made for a perfect quarantine companion. Her SecUnit killing machine has favored a solitary existence ever since it hacked its way to sentience. It feels safest hunkered down in a storage bay, mainlining its favorite shows, far removed from the messy emotions and motives of people – a preference that only became more relatable as 2020 stretched on. Vividly imagined and often wryly hilarious, Network Effect stands as the strongest, richest book in the series, as the SecUnit once more must embroiled itself in human affairs, this time with a team and even a friend. Wells’ accomplished storytelling makes this a perfect entry point, but odds are once you’ve become acquainted with Murderbot you’ll want to do what it would: find a quiet spot and rush through the full series.
Publishers Weekly: With this gripping dystopian novel, Shirley (Eclipse) extrapolates a grim vision of a late-21st-century U.S. wracked by climate change. Former U.S. Marshal Darryl Webb is now a world-weary freelance tracker hired to find a missing serial killer believed to be in Stormland, a 400-mile stretch of devastated southeast U.S. coastline. Some 2,000 squatters live in the ruins of Charleston, inhabiting lawless, flooded enclaves—among them an eerie pseudo-religious cult, a gang of drug dealers, scavenger-refugees, and Gerald Fogle, Webb’s quarry. But Gerald, who’s been medically mind-altered with “Neuro-Cellular Behavioral Modification,” is a new man. No longer the killer he was, he now devotes his time to altruistically helping Stormland’s suffering people. Threads involving “experiencers” who install mind-control implants to drive their doomed victims for their own heinous entertainment and a pharmaceutical executive who finds redemption from his destructive greed propel the intricate, action-filled plot as Webb comes to find meaning in his life. Howling super-hurricanes, grisly torture scenes, and the horrors of scientific experimentation on human brains make for harrowing reading. This is a sober warning about the seductive dangers of power.
Locus: Fugitive Telemetry is an interesting hybrid of murder mystery and space adventure. From the beginning of her career, Martha Wells’ characters have been relatable, understandable, complex, and human; her worldbuilding deft and interesting, filled with graceful detail and implying a universe beyond the page. The Murderbot stories continue this trajectory, with an entertaining protagonist – the incredibly relatable Murderbot – and a wry, witty, darkly humorous voice. Fugitive Telemetry is a brisk, well-paced delight, and fills in a gap in Murderbot’s adventures in a satisfying way. I enjoyed the hell out of it, and I hope that Wells continues to tell Murderbot stories for a long time to come.
School Library Journal: Fast-paced dialogue, steamy make-out sessions, and a protagonist who grows throughout her journey will keep most thoroughly engaged.
NPR: Elatsoe – Ellie to her friends – is an asexual Lipan Apache girl who can raise the ghosts of dead animals, in a world where fairies and vampires are acknowledged members of American society. When she’s visited in a dream by a cousin telling her he’s been murdered, she and her parents resolve to support his widow and child through their mourning – as well as solve the mystery of his murder and bring his killer to justice. Warm and spooky, charming and devastating by turns, Elatsoe brims over with love and deep grief, held in the stronger arms of family and community.
Kirkus: Divya has created a richly imagined and eerily familiar world…confronting urgent questions about humans’ place in a society increasingly run by AIs. Intriguing worldbuilding plus a fast-paced plot…
NPR: An absolutely stunning thriller, queer and fierce and smart: think Fury Road meets Orphan Black.