Do you ever judge a book by its cover? I will admit, I’m a culprit of this and I most definitely judged Martha Wells’ All Systems Red a little too hastily. It had a giant robot guy on the cover and didn’t really convey the mood of the story. But once you get into it, you realize that the mood is a bit lighter than you imagined.
A murderous android discovers itself in All Systems Red, a tense science fiction adventure by Martha Wells that interrogates the roots of consciousness through Artificial Intelligence.
“As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.”
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.
“It calls itself ‘Murderbot.’”
“That was private.”
I think this was the moment I fell in love with Murderbot and Martha Wells. Seriously, I thought this book would be so serious, but it turned out to be quite different than I thought. Following around an android who is obsessed with serial shows and finding its own personality than protecting the people its supposed to protect is a funny premise. You have to give it that.
For the first bit of the story, you get an idea of what kind of work Murderbot did and how it worked amongst other humans. For the most part, it felt like the humans wanted to be friends with the bot, but also realized that it’s a security android there to protect them. Luckily for them, the android is smart enough to know when it’s being messed around with and the kind of damage it can do if placed in the wrong hands.
I liked how compact this story was. Since it’s a novella, there’s not a lot of room to discuss the intricate components of the world, but within one story on one mission, you get all that you need to know about Murderbot and its programming. In the end, I really like stories like this where it’s one story and then it moves on. I liked this introduction to this character and the way its done really shows the relationship between humans and androids and how precarious it is. I mean, one is a living breathing entity while the other is a robot.
I also liked how the story was half telling you about the world and half showing you a story. The story itself felt really small, but all the conspiracy theories and figuring out what was happening to the crew lent to most of the book. But I’m glad they did it so the second book can be pure story about a robot named Murderbot venturing out on his own.
I also loved that it’s through Murderbot’s POV so there are parts you miss because he’s offline and you know deeply into his inner thoughts. And because he’s a robot and has the intelligence of the world, he’s able to deduce situations and make guesses that work and keep the crew safe. It was sad what happened to it and what eventually happens at the end, but you’re not sad for long. It’s most definitely a hopeful introduction to a character I most definitely want to follow.
Overall, great start to a great series and I can’t believe it took me this long to get into it. Now, if only I can find space on my TBR to read the rest.