Yes, this is a photo of the book next to my favorite machine: the coffee pot.
“As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.”
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.Amazon
This is my SPOILER FREE Book Review for All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries 1) by Martha Wells
I intend to use the ***ASPECT method for my discussion and will not spoil the ending.
Why THIS Book?
My podcast cohost Jennifer has been raving about this series for years now and finally convinced the book club that we are both a part of to read it.
This is hard sci-fi. There are robots and spaceships and evil corporations and the very dystopia-style future. There are acronyms that will not be explained.
Two things of note here. First off, we are in the POV of a robot that has somehow achieved individuality. Murderbot is not a totally reliable narrator but he is an interesting narrator. I feel like his tone and general attitude might get old fast, but thankfully this is a very short book and it never happened.
Secondly, there is no real exposition dump which is sort of surprising in a sci-fi book and a blessing in a book this short. We are simply inserted into the story as it already unfolding and swept along for the ride. I personally love that when it is handled well… and in my opinion, Wells handles it very well. Yes, I still had questions after finishing the book, but I also had faith in Wells that if I kept reading the series (and the book is very clearly setting up for “more to come” even if it is technically a self-contained story) my relevant questions would be answered and my irrelevant questions would be forgotten.
I like the diversity of the characters and I like how I sort of feel for Murderbot even though he is “more machine than man.” Maybe I have a soft Data-sized spot in my heart… maybe I was traumatized by the sadness of both Bicentennial Man and A.I. Artificial Intelligence and have never gotten over it. Either way, I am all about the self-aware robot as a stand-in for a human trying to figure out their place in the world. Is Murderbot a stand-in for a human trying to find their place in the world? Maybe. I mean. The whole point of sci-fi is to push us and to talk about real issues in a fantastical setting. But maybe not. Maybe Murderbot is just the next evolution of robot stories going off in a direction that Asimov couldn’t have really imagined. Either way. I liked all the characters even if we never got very deep into any of them.
Why didn’t we get very deep into any of the characters? Well, again, our narrator is the robot who is doing his best to NOT CARE about “his” humans, and also… the book is really really really short.
The plot is pretty simple and has enough tension to make it exciting without being high levels of adrenaline. The ending is clearly setting up the series but also totally fitting for a single service story. It does take a bit to really “get” the world thanks to the lack of exposition dump, but once the pieces click, the sailing is smooth… and even for the bit when you aren’t sure what the hell is going on, nothing is too confusing or off-putting.
Yes. I like hard sci-fi and it has been a while for me. I am not super interested in getting sucked into a long series, but I might actually read more of this series… partly because they all seem to be as short as this one was, and boy howdy was it short. Novella short. The brevity lent itself to the story. There was no extra fluff, the writing is tight and easy to follow once you settle into the world.
Would I recommend it?
If you like hard sci-fi, yes definitely. This is Very Very Genre though, so if you are iffy on the whole robots, space, robots in space, etc… maybe rad something else. Then again… it is so short that even if you are not into hard sci-fi or are unsure how you feel about robots and space etc, this might be the proper book for you to test the waters.
Also, FYI… this title is one of the Kindle Unlimited titles… so there is a decent chance you can read it for free if you have that service. Bonus!
*** ASPECT Method (I created this, I used it, feel free to do the same.)
A Atmosphere: How did it make me feel? What was the world like? This might include the overall tone.
S Style: What was the writing style like? Simplistic or sophisticated? Clunky or beautiful?
P Plot/Pace: Was it engaging? Were there holes? Did it feel too rushed or too long?
E Enjoyment: Was it a chore to finish or compelling enough that I picked it over other fun activities?
C Characters: Were they believable, sympathetic, interesting?
T This? Why did I read *This* book?