May 20 2018

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells

Loads of fun, in large part due to the main character/narrator of Murderbot. That isn’t actually Murderbot’s name, but it’s what our narrator chooses as a self-referential, and to tell you why would possibly tell you too much about this novella. Murderbot is a Security Unit, a half-machine half-organic being created solely to protect humans in a highly corporatized, planet-faring future. The plot itself is a somewhat straightforward adventure narrative laced with progressive sci-fi concepts. The military bits occasionally get elided enough for even me, the civilian, to notice, but any criticism is quickly subsumed by how awesome Murderbot is. And that’s not to imply that Murderbot is some kind of hardcore badass (tho there are definitely moments of that): on the contrary, Murderbot’s appeal comes largely from the flaws of this fascinating, self-aware being as Murderbot guides and protects a group of explorers on a dangerous planet.

Murderbot, you see, is the epitome of socially hostile (“antisocial” and “socially awkward” just don’t accurately describe the condition.) Murderbot would much rather sit in a Cubicle, watching entertainment feeds, than interact with humans. When circumstances force Murderbot into very personal quarters with the human members of the expedition, the results are both comic and almost painfully insightful into what it means to shun human company. Any introvert can empathize.

I also really enjoyed the economy of emotion put into that ending, and am very much looking forward to the rest of the novellas in the series, tho I rather wish they could all have been published together in one volume to begin with. While I do think that this novella could have been fleshed out into a meatier novel, it is pretty great on its own, and its brevity lends itself to recommendation as an introduction to the joys of progressive hard sf.

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