All Systems Red, by Martha Wells
Series: The Murderbot Diaries, Book One
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
A murderous android discovers itself in All Systems Red, a tense science fiction adventure by Martha Wells that interrogates the roots of consciousness through Artificial Intelligence.
“As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.”
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.
Character without Gender
“The HubSystem that controlled their habitat, that they were dependent on for food, shelter, filtered air, and water, was trying to kill them. And in their corner all they had was Murderbot, who just wanted everyone to shut up and leave it alone so it could watch the entertainment feed all day. “
Welcome to The Murderbot Diaries! Actually, you should not expect a murderous bot, but rather a quirky, sarcastic, and awkward loner bot who will, nevertheless, at some point, come to care for those annoying and interrupting humans. Murderbot is but the name it calls itself in secret, which I find hilarious.
”Yes, talk to Murderbot about its feelings. The idea was so painful I dropped to 97 percent efficiency. I’d rather climb back into Hostile One’s mouth.”
All Systems Red is a novella and not a full-length novel or the first book in a new epic science fiction saga. It is a quick and fun read but with the necessary depth and potential for more.
The narration from Murderbot’s point of view worked really well for me. The plot was interesting enough, although nothing to really shout out about. The setting on a lonely planet and danger looming was nice, although you should not expect a scary horror story. The comments on AIs – whether they have feelings, should be free etc – are nicely integrated and don’t come off as preachy or artificial. The ending is a little bit rushed but I really like the outcome. The secondary characters, however, do not come to life and I still cannot tell the one from the other, unfortunately.
Notes on queerness: Murderbot has no gender and is asexual/aromantic, and the society in general is embracing polyamorous relationships. Both aspects have no real impact on the story, however, and were only mentioned at some point, thus rendering the queer elements more of a cool gimmick than a more profound representation.
I enjoyed this story a lot and I am looking forward to more Murderbot adventures in the future.
MARTHA WELLS has written many fantasy novels, including The Wizard Hunters, Wheel of the Infinite, the Books of the Raksura series (beginning with The Cloud Roads and ending with The Harbors of the Sun), and the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer, as well as YA fantasy novels, short stories, and non-fiction.
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