Book Review: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Greetings book nerds. How goes your 2022? I’ve managed one whole day of work before having to call in to look after my little one whilst we await the results of a PCR. Boo! He’s having a little nap so I thought I’d cracking with some reviews. I’ve got a few to get through so hopefully I can get some written up and scheduled for the blog for the next few weeks.

Stats: Format: e-book Genre: Sci-fi Pages: 155 Published: 2017 Book 2 of 2022

Murderbot with added armour

I picked this up as part of the #beatthebacklog challenge, thought up by https://twitter.com/owlbesatreading?s=21 (which I’m LOVING by the way). I only bought this in December 2021 after eyeing it up for a while but it counts!

I have been meaning to work my way through some of the backlist of Hugo award winning novellas, novelettes and short stories so this was as good a place as any to start.

This was actually book 2 of the year for me, and both have been novellas. It wasn’t a conscious decision but it was good to ease my way into the new year with two short books.

So, thoughts on this? I really enjoyed it! Like many readers, I found it quite easy to relate to Murderbot, not because I am a part-robot security guard, but because I too mostly prefer my own company and am often quite socially awkward. Murderbot just wants to get their head down, do the job and slink off to watch reality tv. Except stuff keeps going wrong.

Murderbot is a part-robot, part-organic Security Unit who has managed to override their governer module and can now essentially do what it wants, rather than what it’s told. This is all within reason of course because MB doesn’t want anyone to KNOW they’ve hacked their governer module in case they’re taken apart for spares. They’ve been leased to a team of scientists who are exploring an uninhabited planet. However, when another nearby team goes quiet, Murderbot, along with the humans on the team, must work out what has happened.

For such a short book, there were a lot of great lines which paint a picture of MB, a few of which I’ll include below:

I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.

And in their corner all they had was Murderbot, who just wanted everyone to shut up and leave it alone so it could watch the entertainment feed all day.

Granted, I liked the imaginary people on the entertainment feed way more than I liked real ones, but you can’t have one without the other.

I loved the humour in this book, though as can happen with a novella, my visit with the characters felt all too brief. I’m glad there’s more in the series so I can read more about MB and find out a bit more about events in their past that were hinted at.

The plot is pretty straightforward but nonetheless entertaining. A little bit of mystery, a little bit of action and adventure.

For a part-robot, MB is a very human character. Grumpy, pessimistic, but persevering nonetheless. I can see why the series and character are so popular.

Verdict: Recommended!

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