“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.”
-Synopsis from back of the book
*light spoilers ahead*
I first heard about All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells from a recent NPR article, We Asked, You Answered: Your 50 Favorite SciFi and Fantasy Books of The Past Decade by Petra Mayer. I was browsing the article, adding a few titles to my to-read list on StoryGraph, and when I came across All Systems Red I immediately knew I wanted to read it.
I managed to get my hands on a copy at the library where I work just before all the hold requests came in – apparently, I wasn’t the only one who read that article and decided to read this particular book.
At just under 150 pages, this novella can easily be read in a day or two. I found it to be delightful and a very enjoyable read.
“I am not a combat murderbot, I’m Security. I keep things from attacking the clients and try to gently discourage the clients from attacking each other.”
The general premise is that Murderbot, also known as SecUnit, has accompanied a team of scientists on their mission, at which they are attacked. Murder Bot surprises them all by showing its compassion and ability to think critically in dire situations.
“It’s wrong to think of a construct as half bot, half human. It makes it sound like the halves are discrete, like the bot half should want to obey orders and do its job and the human half should want to protect itself and get the hell out of here. As opposed to the reality, which was that I was one whole confused entity with no idea what I wanted to do. What I should do. What I needed to do.”
With no choice after the attack but to trust Murderbot, the scientists decide they must all team up, act now, and question things later. As you can tell from the excerpts above, Murderbot really comes alive on the page right from the beginning. I was laughing out lout while reading this, while also being very drawn into the story. At times it was predictable, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable.
Having read quite a bit of short silence fiction over the years, I can honestly say that I think this was science fiction at its best and I look forward to reading the rest of the Murderbot Diaries in the future.