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.
The sixth entry in the Murderbot Diaries is coming out soon, so what better way to prepare than rereading everything? I love Murderbot, let’s get that information out of the way. This is my third time rereading All Systems Red and it’s just as good as the first time I picked it up.
I think this series has some of the best novellas being published in speculative fiction today. Martha Wells excels in writing non-human characters. Murderbot is funny narrator with a very dry wit that makes you laugh out loud while reading. I love a character that is very snarky and really doesn’t want to do the things they have to. And lets be real, if I was Murderbot, I too would only want to watch episodes of Sanctuary Moon rather than keeping idiots alive on an alien planet.
One of my favourite things about this novella is that nobody is a hero. Murderbot is only supposed to rescue clients from rogue fauna or teams turning on each other. It’s not prepared for outside human forces trying to kill its clients due to human politics. Likewise Dr. Mensah and the other members of the PreservationAux team are just scientists trying to do their jobs. They have no combat training and are way over their heads. It’s refreshing to read a story about characters that are not epic heros, they’re just ordinary people that wind up in the wrong place at the wrong time and have to use all their skills to persevere.
The Murderbot Diaries also does a really good and interesting job examining the question of what makes a person and the legalities of that status in various cultures. Murderbot isn’t human. It is not legally a person or a citizen. It’s property belonging to a corporation. But Murderbot has feelings, preferences, and thoughts outside its broken government module. And when things get bad, Murderbot makes hard decisions based on its desires and goals, rather than what the Company would consider the best option. This novella a very compelling and often heartwrenching examination of sentience, humanity, and personhood.
About the Author
Martha Wells has been an SF/F writer since her first fantasy novel was published in 1993, and her work includes The Books of the Raksura series, The Death of the Necromancer, the Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy, The Murderbot Diaries series, media tie-in fiction for Star Wars, Stargate: Atlantis, and Magic: the Gathering, as well as short fiction, YA novels, and non-fiction. She has won a Nebula Award, two Hugo Awards, two Locus Awards, and her work has appeared on the Philip K. Dick Award ballot, the BSFA Award ballot, the USA Today Bestseller List, and the New York Times Bestseller List. Her books have been published in twenty languages.
You can find her at marthawells.com or on Twitter at @marthawells1.
3 thoughts on “All Systems Red by Martha Wells”
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this and you just reminded me that I should probably be reading this instead of the Asher book I’m reading now. Tally-ho. 🤠
It’s strange, I liked her Raksura series more than this one. I didn’t make it to the second Murderbot (yet).