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Review: All Systems Red

All Systems Red

(The Muderbot Diaries #1)

Martha Wells

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it's up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

I started 2021 in a bit of a reading slump. I had picked up a couple of books that just weren't holding my interest until, while scrolling through my TBR on Goodreads, I found this little hidden gem. Since my last two reading successes of 2020 were both also sci-fi (a fun little YA called The Disasters and the well-reviewed The Space Between Worlds), I thought maybe this was a trend I needed to continue. Since All Systems Red is a novella at a whopping 156 pages this seemed like a safe gamble and as it turns out, my gamble paid off.

This is the start to a series of novellas called The Muderbot Diaries and it follows a security android who has hacked his own protocols, unbeknownst to the humans around him, and spends his days downloading entertainment tv when he's not safeguarding the researchers he's been hired to protect. Wells writes Murderbot - that's what he calls himself and he doesn't really have any other name so that's what I'm using - with a wry personality and a general awkwardness that was very appealing and likable. He's packed to the gills with weaponry and his job is security, but man he's one super awkward dude. The novellas are told from his point of view and this was the very best choice because his point of view is just so damn enjoyable.

When suspicious events start interfering with 'his humans' he jumps into action without hesitation, but, mainly he just wants to be left alone to watch video streams of trashy shows. That's pretty much the plot of this novella. Murderbot doesn't mind helping when needed and doing his job, but don't ask him personal questions or require him to engage in friendly conversation - in his own words, he 'just doesn't care'. I can tell this series will be about Murderbot finding himself and learning who he really is now that he isn't confined by his programming, and possibly about how his relationships with humans change over time. I'm really hoping in the future Murderbot makes himself a nice, little android friend.

The one complaint I have about The Murderbot Diaries has already been talked about ad nauseum, so I'll just mention it briefly. There are five novellas in this series, with a sixth and final due out in April. But, honestly, this could have just been a trilogy of full length books. I obviously don't know the reasoning behind this publishing choice but I am enjoying the novella format so far. It's nice to read Murderbot's adventures in short bursts, and it does feel like the first book ended at a place that sets up his next adventure well.

This is a great series to check out when you're in the mood for sci-fi but are looking for a short read. Murderbot is a unique main character in the science fiction world and the juxtaposition of his action-packed heroics and his lackadaisical attitude really makes this novella a stand out.


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