Review: All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells

December 11, 2017 Review 0

Review: All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha WellsAll Systems Red by Martha Wells
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #1
Published by Tor on May 2, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Pages: 144
Source: Personal Copy
Sexual Content: N/A
Reviewed by: Rebecca
3 Stars

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.

ALL SYSTEMS RED is a fun read about a tv watching, awkward, security robot. When you call yourself Murderbot, it’s not surprising that you find it difficult to connect with humans. Murderbot is a Security Unit; it handles the security and guards the crew during missions. All units should have a governor chip that keeps them in line and forces them to follow orders. Murderbot disabled theirs. When they should be offline, Murderbot streams their favourite tv shows.

The novel focuses on the investigation as machinery and other security units start breaking down on the planet. Areas of the map are missing and another group of scientists have gone radio silent. The intrigue and the investigation into the mechanical sabotage should have had a greater impact on the story. The plot kept twisting away from involving the Company which I never understood. When the saboteurs are revealed, there was no weight or emotion to it.

Even though the novel is written in first person, there is never a complete sense of Murderbot. It’s explains that it has cloned human tissue and mechanical parts, but you never get a sense of what the unit looks like. Murderbot is uncomfortable with humans and emotions, prefering to keep their armor and helmet on or just facing away from the people they’re talking to. But as we learn more about Murderbot’s history, there’s not enough depth to connect with the emotions of the situations. This would be fine, if the novel didn’t want to have it both ways.

With the one-off lines about clones, robot slavery, freed robots, and caretakers, it’s clear that there’s a much more interesting world just underneath the surface of the novel. I wish the plot and Murderbot had skimmed deeper. I’m looking forward to reading the next installment of The Murderbot Diaries and seeing if the worlding building expands to greater depths.

Series Titles:
  1. All Systems Red
  2. Artificial Condition
  3. Rogue Protocol
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For other robot main characters, check out Made to Kill (Ray Electromatic Mysteries #1) by Adam Christopher

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