May 3, 2018
All Systems Red, by 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.
What’s not to love about a misanthropic robot that might destroy humanity, if only they didn’t create such wonderful holo dramas? I think that my favorite aspect of the Murderbot Diaries is that Eden could totally kill all humans, but, like, meh. In a world of highly skilled humans, we often end up doing only what is required in our job because there’s no incentive (other than losing our job) to do more. Oh how I relate to Eden and ter loathing of humanity. How many times have I been at work, and wished that I were Netflixing or reading a book instead.
In All Systems Red, we get the backstory of Eden and ter sordid past as an ineffectual murderbot. Ter really does care about the humans that te is expected to protect. Te doesn’t have to protect them, because of the hacked governor, but te does it out of a sense of professional responsibility.
I enjoyed All Systems Red, and look forward to reading more offerings by Martha Wells, especially more Murderbot Diaries. Five stars! Recommended to scifi fans and misanthropes everywhere.
Martha Wells has written many fantasy novels, including The Books of the Raksura series, the Ile-Rien series as well as YA fantasy novels, short stories, media tie-ins, and non-fiction. Her most recent fantasy novels are The Edge of Worlds in 2016 and The Harbors of the Sun in 2017, the final novel in The Books of the Raksura series. She has a new series of SF novellas, The Murderbot Diaries, forthcoming from Tor.com. She was the lead writer for the story team of Magic: the Gathering’s Dominaria expansion in 2018. Her work has appeared on the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Award ballots, and her books have been published in eleven languages.