REVIEW: All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells
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.
At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
Dear Martha Wells,
I found out about this novella in the same place where I get most of my SFF recommendations – Mike Glyer’s “File 770.”
I was always drawn to the stories featuring androids of all kinds and enjoyed reading about how those characters perceive themselves in the stories and what made them tick.
I thought Murderbot was a great character; I loved its voice so much. The character has “It” pronoun in the books and when others say It, the Murderbot does not seem to mind, so I am going to continue referring to Murderbot as It.
Basically blurb gives you a perfect set up. Murderbot is assigned to the team who has important stuff to do on the certain planet, but somebody, or certain somebodies, decides to sabotage them and Murderbot does Its best to help “my humans.”
We are in Murderbot’s head all the time and the story is written from Its first person POV, therefore it makes sense to me that Murderbot has the most in-depth characterization. I did not think any of the human characters came even close to that depth, but they were okay, definitely interesting chess pieces who had potential if the writer would decide to give them bigger parts to play in the series. (Yes it is a series, at least two more books are coming up next year based on what I saw on Amazon).
So, who is Murderbot? This droid has a dark past and for that reason refers to itself as Murderbot. It was however a wonderful character who wanted to do the job well and protect the humans to the best of its ability.
Murderbot also did not want to have any (or as little as possible) social interactions with the team it was protecting and just wanted to be left alone to watch the serial it loved for many hours. In other words Murderbot was shy, and it made for some delightfully snarky monologues we were privy to.
“Confession time: I don’t actually know where we are. We have, or are supposed to have, a complete satellite map of the planet in the survey package. That was how the humans decided where to do their assessments. I hadn’t looked at the maps yet and I’d barely looked at the survey package. In my defense, we’d been here twenty-two planetary days and I hadn’t had to do anything but stand around watching humans make scans or take samples of dirt, rocks, water, and leaves. The sense of urgency just wasn’t there. Also, you may have noticed, I don’t care.”
“What was I supposed to do, kill all humans because the ones in charge of constructs in the company were callous? Granted, I liked the imaginary people on the entertainment feed way more than I liked real ones, but you can’t have one without the other.”
“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.”
We get to see how the action/adventure plot makes our narrator (Murderbot) not grow up exactly, because its not a child, but I guess figure out something more that it wants from life, and I thought it was a lot of fun and look forward to the next adventure.