All Systems Red

January 4, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

redAll Systems Red by Martha Wells

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Meet Murderbot. Murderbot is a half-robot, half-organic construct that’s been hired to assist an excavation crew doing a survey on a new planet. Murderbot has disabled the governor in itself, allowing it to do such things as ignore direct orders, skip scheduled upgrades, and not follow its own directives. In short, Murderbot has become a sentient entity without any restraints. Luckily, “Murderbot” doesn’t accurately describe itself.

This novella is an intriguing look at human/robot relations, as told from the perspective of the robot. There may be more to Murderbot’s organic side than this story lets on (it doesn’t have complete recall on some events that happened in its past), but the way the story is told, it feels like it’s more robot than organic. That being said, this is the first in a series of novellas, so maybe that’s something we’ll learn in a future volume. Regardless, Murderbot has an empathetic side, as well as other emotions that her human co-workers didn’t expect to see.

I’m a reader of the webcomic Questionable Content, and as I was reading this story, I kept picturing Bubbles as Murderbot. As such, it made me envision Murberbot as female, even though there’s nothing in the story to support it. Due to that connection, or possibly to the fact that the author is female, Murderbot felt female to me throughout the story. I don’t know if other readers got that feeling out of the story; I’d be curious to know.

The story is set in a science-fictional world, but at its heart, it’s a mystery. The story opens part of the way into the excavation, and we learn that a good chunk of their information has gone missing from their files. At that point, the characters have to learn who’s behind the sabotage, before things turn deadly. The structure of the story feels like a whodunnit, and I see one other review has labeled it as a hard-boiled story, which I get, though I don’t necessarily agree.

Either way, this is a sharp story with an engaging narrator and likable supporting characters. It doesn’t quite reach the four-star level with me, but that’s likely due to having high expectations going into the story. All Systems Red is getting tremendous hype, not unjustly, but I was expecting something a bit more wowie-zowie out of it based on it all. I’ll definitely read the rest of the series, though.

Started: October 11, 2017
Finished: October 11, 2017

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