Sunday, May 13, 2018

REVIEW: All Systems Red (e-novella) by Martha Wells

All Systems Red is science fiction.


Murderbot is a SecUnit that hacked its own governor module a while back. Instead of using its newfound freedom to go on a killing spree, it's been quietly putting a bare minimum amount of effort into its job in order to hide the massive amount of time and effort it's putting into surreptitiously consuming movies, serials, books, plays, and music. Its favorite serial is Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon.

Murderbot's current job, acting as security for a small group of scientists, is fairly easy, up until a large carnivorous creature that wasn't mentioned anywhere in the region's hazard report tries to eat one of the scientists. The gaps in the data could be the result of corporate cost-cutting, but Murderbot soon suspects sabotage.

Murderbot didn't really care about a lot of what was going on around it until circumstances forced it to care, which meant that certain aspects of the story didn't get as much attention as others. I'm still not entirely sure about a lot of the political details, and my knowledge of the human characters was mostly limited to a name and a general sense of their personalities.

That's okay, though, because I read this primarily for Murderbot, and I loved Murderbot. It preferred to spend as little time with humans as possible and absolutely hated having to talk about itself, being asked about its feelings, or standing out in anyway. Some of this stemmed from a desire to avoid having its hacked governor module discovered, but I also felt that Murderbot came across as being extremely introverted.

As the story progressed, Murderbot realized that it kind of liked most of the humans it was charged with protecting, which wasn't always a comfortable position for it to be in. Only one of its humans even vaguely got the hang of interacting with it in a way that put it at ease (as little eye contact as possible, and preferably via text rather than talking). Also, Murderbot was way more used to getting attached to fictional characters than real humans. A quote I liked and could relate to: "I hate having emotions about reality; I’d much rather have them about Sanctuary Moon." (62.9%)

If you go into this hoping for a lot of murdering, you'll probably be disappointed. There's a bit of action, but Murderbot isn't really a combat bot, it's a security bot with the cheapest possible software. Its fighting style isn't so much about brilliant skills and strategies as it is about throwing itself at an enemy until the enemy is dead, which is only possible because 1) Murderbot is hard to kill and 2) it has self-repairing abilities as long as it has access to its cubicle. I got a bit of a kick out of the difference between its reaction to its own injuries and the scientists' reactions. The scientists were worried because Murderbot's injuries would have killed a human, whereas Murderbot just wanted to avoid drawing attention to itself by having organic bits leak or fall off in public.

I loved so much about Murderbot: its sense of humor, its desire to avoid having to spend too much time around its humans, its thoughts about corporate cheapness, and its devotion to Sanctuary Moon (hundreds of episodes long and counting). The one thing I hated was that the story was over so quickly. I haven't bought the next work in the series yet, but I'm definitely going to.

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