All Systems Red

All Systems Red Book Cover

Author(s): Martha Wells,
The Murderbot Diaries #1
Genre(s): Artifical Intelligence, Space Opera,
Publisher: Tor.com
Date Pubished: May 2, 2017
144 Pages

All Systems Red Book Review

Murderbot doesn’t want to murder. Murderbot wants to watch TV. Unfortunately, Murderbot has to murder. Sometimes. Because Murderbot is a SecUnit, and its job is to protect whoever the company tells it to protect. As a point of discussion, Murderbot’s pronoun is it. I’m not dehumanizing it. You could yell at Wells for dehumanizing Murderbot, but Murderbot isn’t human. So don’t @ me.

Murderbot has no name. It thinks of itself as Murderbot because it’s how people see it: a robot that murders things. Robot isn’t an accurate descriptor for it, though. Murderbot is a construct, part organic and part robot. Possessing sentience, Murderbot has full control over its actions. The company, and whomever the SecUnit is assigned to protect, exercises ultimate control through a governor module. Murderbot has hacked its governor module; no one has full control over it. It can choose to do whatever it wants. It chooses to half-ass his job and watch the entertainment feeds, mostly soap operas. All Systems Red is the story of when Murderbot whole asses his job.

Suffering from social anxiety, probably because its controllers usually treat it as an inhuman object, Murderbot often hides from the people it has to protect. It hides in its cubicle when it can, handling all security remotely. When it’s presence is required, it goes out in armor with its mask opaque. All Systems Red is the story of when Murderbot shows its real, human-looking face.

The people Murderbot is charged with protecting this time are different. They don’t think of constructs, like Murderbot, as objects. They think of constructs as people. They also happen to be in the rare, dangerous situation that Murderbot is designed to handle. The payoff is high octane violence tempered with grudging respect, with more than a little social anxiety sprinkled on top.

All System Red is a must-read for me. It’s short, weighing in at less than 150 pages, so anyone can find time to read it in a reasonable amount of time. It’s action scenes are exceptionally well thought out and described. Plus, everyone is a little bit Murderbot.

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