Review: All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells

Murderbots! How could I resist a book about Murderbots! Even the title is awesome — All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries) — and I can’t stop saying it (murderbot murderbot murderbot). The fact that the author of this terrific bit of sci-fi is a woman (Martha Wells)? That’s just icing on the murderbot cake.

All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries (The Murderbot Diaries (1))

All Systems Red is the story of a secunit, or security unit, a Company-supplied android with organic components that seamlessly interfaces with their computer systems. This particular secunit is special:

I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.

So, basically a cyborg who would rather watch Downton Abbey than go about murdering humans. Seems like the sort of thing our civilization will eventually produce. But that governor module – it’s what makes the SecUnits obey the orders of the Company and the computer system, and it is vital that no one find out Murderbot has hacked his:

…not letting anybody, especially the people who held my contract, know that I was a free agent was kind of important. Like, not having my organic components destroyed and the rest of me cut up for parts important.

Murderbot is currently helping a group of scientists who are surveying a planet for potential development opportunities. There are other groups of scientists working on other parts of the planet (with their own secunits who are decidedly not free agents) and the assignment is pretty dull…at least until they are exploring a crater and come across a hostile life form that has not been mentioned in their mission brief. In fact, it seems there are a lot of issues with the brief: parts of the map are missing, they’ve not been alerted to obvious dangers, and they can’t get a response from the scientists at the other survey location. If something or someone is sabotaging this mission, it may only be Murderbot’s hacked governor module that saves them all.

OMG this is so much fun! I cannot wait until I’ve got a few other review copies cleared away so I can dig into the whole series. Murderbot is like a less mopey-version of Marvin the Paranoid Android from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and I love the glimpses we get of its personality:

So, I’m awkward with actual humans. It’s not paranoia about my hacked governor module, and it’s not them; it’s me. I know I’m a horrifying murderbot, and they know it, and it makes both of us nervous, which makes me even more nervous. Also, if I’m not in the armor then it’s because I’m wounded and one of my organic parts may fall off and plop on the floor at any moment and no one wants to see that.

Or my favorite:

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.

I loved it – honestly, any time I quote this much from a work, you know I love it and want you to love it, too. If you like good sci-fi (and who doesn’t?), I encourage you to check it out. And I’m not the only one who thought it was great. It picked up a few accolades along the way:

Winner: 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novella
Winner: 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novella
Winner: 2018 Alex Award
Winner: 2018 Locus Award
One of the Verge’s Best Books of 2017
New York Times and USA Today Bestseller

And if Murderbot sounds like your kind of android, I encourage you to check out something I reviewed a few years ago: The Dark Side by Anthony O’Neill. Very different book but similar dark humour and fun with androids, and I never get enough of that.

My copy of All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells came from my personal library (recommended by my good friend, Glenn). Since you can’t download it from the Company’s satellite feed, pick up your copy at Amazon by clicking on the image below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *