All Systems Red – Martha Wells

Releases 5.2.17

Synopsis: 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.

Holly: All Systems Red is told from the POV of a security robot or SecUnit, or as he refers to himself, MurderBot. He has hacked his module, so that he isn’t under control & does not have to follow the guidelines set out for government modules. This means that he doesn’t murder the humans, instead he’d rather sit & watch endless hours of entertaining shows. He avoids human interaction as much as possible for various reasons, but one of them being because if he is found out, he will be sent back to the company & have his organic components destroyed & the rest of him cut up for parts.

It was an interesting concept, but the story was one that I found hard to get into at first. I wasn’t overly attached to any of the characters. Even being inside of our protagonists​ head did not compel him that much to me. And I’ll be honest, with a title like The MurderBot Diaries, I was expecting.. well, a bit more murdering!

Corey: It was wicked light on murdering! Yeah, this is one of those books that just kind of….happens? It’s certainly well written, and the concept is interesting enough. It just all feels a little flat. The voice of the narrator was the most engaging element for me. The sort of not-quite-robot/not-quite-human aspect. The whole thing comes off as almost an analogue for anxiety & social awkwardness, as this SecUnit absolutely DREADS the interaction that’s required to keep these humans safe.

Holly: I completely agree! I was left wanting more. The writing was good, the concept was super interesting, the cover art is outstanding! But it just.. didn’t fully capture me. Although with this being the first novella in the series, perhaps it is slowly building up to more of a gripping story.

Corey: I guess I’d be hard pressed to recommend this with any real enthusiasm, but to reiterate the good points, the concept is interesting, it’s soundly written, and I really did enjoy the somewhat droll voice of the narrator. I guess I could identify with the awkwardness and intense self-awareness! But yeah, the human characters, maybe somewhat paradoxically, are just very one-dimensional.

Holly: I did enjoy the the snark that was occasionally scattered throughout! I just wish there was MORE of that!

I think this novella would be good for those who want a quick science fiction read that is light on your typical space action & heavy on the inner workings of a robot struggling with humanity (not to mention a healthy dose of government corruption!)

The story was perfectly fine, but I’m glad it wasn’t longer. I think the narrative would have been stretched a little too thin if this was a full-length novel. Even though this wasn’t a hit for me, I am certainly not opposed to checking out more of Martha Wells’ work in the future!

The Grimdragons Rating: 3 socially awkward MURDERBOTS out of 5!

(Thank you to Tor.com Publishing for providing us with a copy before the release date, in exchange for an honest review!)

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