All Systems Red by Martha Wells begins The Murderbot Diaries, a science fiction action and adventure series that tackles questions of the ethics of sentient robotics. It appeals to fans of Westworld, Ex Machina, Ann Leckie’s Imperial Raadch series, or lain M. Banks’ Culture novels. The main character is a deadly security droid that has bucked its restrictive programming and is balanced between contemplative self discovery and an idle instinct to kill all humans. In a corporate dominated 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.1 Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighbouring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.
I am going to say straight away that this has been one of my favourite reads of 2021, and one of my favourite sci fi reads as well. I have found sci fi a bit tricky, I have never quite understood why but I had no trouble getting into All Systems Red. This is partly to do with the fact that Martha Wells employs a first person viewpoint, the book is solely from the Murderbot’s perspective. This in turn allows the reader to really get into the characters head, you experience the thoughts, feelings and reactions of the Bot. This also in turn allows Wells to create tension, particularly in the build up to action scenes and combat which again are exciting, quick and well executed as you would imagine them.
The world is an interesting one, a corporate dominated world which is led by the all powerful “Company.” It is referenced many times but never really explained, this led me to become very curious about this Sci-Fi world, indeed the universe that Wells has put together. The book led with many questions about the world, I am always curious about a new world or universe, but sci-fi worlds are becoming more appealing to me to explore. Needless to say, the appeal of the world has got me clamouring to find out more about it and trust me I aim to.
As mentioned the book is told entirely from the androids point of view, you experience its thoughts. Having broken free from its governor module, the machine is questioning its existence and the lives of the humans that it is protecting. It leads to some fascinating questions about humanity, being alive and existence. As all good sci fi novels, All Systems Red asks and answers some important questions.
This is a book that easily gets my seal of approval, it’s wonderful and in a nice 155 pages you get a complete story with a wonderful central character (who loves the world’s own take on TV space opera) and easily one of the best AI characters ever created. With a nice accessible writing style, an intriguing world awaits with some wonderfully tense, fast and well executed fight scenes. My only complaint is that it ends, fortunately there are 3 more novellas published, a full length novel and a new novella coming out this year.
This is my first review for Book Blurb, I am delighted to be here as a contributor and I really hope that you have enjoyed my first review.
ALL SYSTEMS RED
The Murderbot Diaries #1
Tor Books, 2017