All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #1
Published by Tor/Forge on May 2, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction
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A murderous android discovers itself in All Systems Red, a tense science fiction adventure by Martha Wells that blends HBO's Westworld with Iain M. Banks' Culture books.
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring 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.” 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.
I loved All Systems Red. The very first chapter let me know that I was really going to enjoy this ride. And I did.
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.
Murderbot is incredibly snarky – which I appreciate. Murderbot is a SecUnit construct – part organic, part bionic – with no sexual parts, making it agendered. It does not have a name other than what it named itself: Murderbot. It does not think of itself with as a gender but I decided it was a she (in my head). Murderbot, like most of us, is contemptuous of humans and irritated by them – she/it just wants to be left alone so it could stream. 35,000 hours of entertainment thus far – with many, many more series to glom.
Oh, how I understand you, Murderbot. That irritation you feel each time someone interrupts your streaming with some inane human request or activity? I am there with you. That annoyance you feel when you have to pause a show to deal with “real life” is quite the same way I feel when I have to put down my book(s) and go to work. The desire you feel to murder someone because they can’t understand that YES, You ARE busy consuming things you want to consume? It’s like an itch you can’t scratch…and plus who has time for murder when you can get back to reading as soon as they leave you alone?
Murderbot was created and is owned by “the company.” IDK exactly who/what the company is – there is no real explanation. The company seems to be some large private conglomerate that has a monopoly on [new] planet exploration. The company then sells sections of the planet along with survey specs to different exploration groups looking for new flora and fauna. In order to buy these sections (and the ability to explore and possibly discover new things) the exploration groups must also purchase [only] company supplies, computer equipment, life support & Communications (HubSystem) and SecUnits (android security units). The SecUnits are required and gives the company an additional edge: the SecUnits + the HubSystem records EVERYTHING (no privacy at all). And like all good conglomerates, the company buys everything as cheap as possible AND they farm all recordings for as much data as possible and then sells it to the highest bidder.
Murderbot is a SecUnit who is completely self-aware (IDK if any of the others are but I get the feeling they are). Murderbot hacked it’s “governor module” as soon as it could do so, making it autonomous. This means that Murderbot decides when and if it will download updates as well what it will attend to. Mostly, it wants to attend to the series it’s currently downloaded.
Murderbot develops an unlikely attachment to its human contracts – mostly because they are a small, close-knit group of eight. They don’t treat it like equipment – they seem to like it and think of it as more of someone enslaved instead of a construct – which Murderbot finds both weirdly endearing and weird in an “OMG! Help! The stupid humans want to TALK to me about feelings and stuff and OMG leave me alone!” way. Therefore, Murderbot is much more interested in keeping this group alive than most. Luckily for Murderbot’s contracts cause the shit hits the fan and splatters rather quickly.
I really don’t want to discuss much more of the plot than the above as I don’t want to spoil any of it. Suffice to say that Murderbot is a great character and All Systems Red was a great novella. I certainly plan on reading any new additions to this series.