Book Review: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

in #review4 years ago (edited)

This is my entry for @didic's review contest on the 2018 Hugo Award finalists. These are an assortment of some of the best scifi and fantasy stories of 2017 by a diverse assortment of authors.

Given that I haven't written anything in a while, this was just the kick in the pants I needed to motivate some Steemit writing. Ergo, thanks @limabeing for bringing it to my attention and thanks @didic for setting it up.

ALL SYSTEMS RED - Martha Wells


All Systems Red cover

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.

That is the first line of All Systems Red and really, it tells you everything you need to know about the protagonist.

Okay, maybe not literally everything but close enough. Murderbot, as our hero calls itself, is a Security Unit (SecUnit for short) assigned to protect the humans of some kind of geology expedition on an alien planet. It is good at killing alien monsters (and whatever else needs killing), better at protecting humans (despite not particularly liking them) but really all it wants is to watch Space!Netflix all day.

The story is obviously science fiction, set in a future where humanity is fully out among the stars, traveling in spaceships and exploring new worlds. There's violence and conspiracy and alien monsters but that's just background and action scenes: the intended point of interest is Murderbot itself. Murderbot is the narrator and our window into the world and is one fascinating being. The story keeps it ambiguous as whether Murderbot is a robot/android/full-body cyborg It is made clear that Murderbot has organic parts, external-cosmetic and internal-biomimetic. Quite a bit of mystery about which parts came first. Also, it is never made clear what if any external gender Murderbot might have.

I strongly suspect trans people will get a big kick out of this tale.

At least Mensah and Arada had overruled the ones who wanted to talk to me about it. Yes, talk to Murderbot about its feelings. The idea was so painful I dropped to 97 percent efficiency.

Anyway, the most fun part of the book is Murderbot's internal narrative. The story is in first-person so we see everything through its eyes. Its attitude shares a lot of DNA with other fictional androids: HK-47, Cameron from Sarah Connor Chronicles, even shades of Marvin the Paranoid Android but it is definitely more than a pastiche. Murderbot is quite frankly in a bit of denial; it talks a lot in its internal monologue about how it wants nothing to do with humans but the bot doth protest too much. Given how much it enjoys human entertainment media, it's clear Murderbot likes something about us. This thoughtful, socially insecure killing machine doesn't so much hate humans as much as it hates interacting with them.

So of course things go progressively wronger with the mission and force Murderbot to hang out with the humans more and more.

As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.

As the story moves on, the humans start to catch on that SecUnits are not just voice-command "guns with legs" but are actually capable of more. They don't know that this specific SecUnit is fully sentient (having hacked its own governor module to be fully independent of the corporation that built it) but they know that something is going on.

They also catch on that the Company sponsoring their mission isn't just being cheap and unconcerned with their safety as usual but is actively trying to kill them. That in turn is how Murderbot reluctantly realizes that it actually doesn't want its humans dead which makes it go above and beyond to save them.

All Systems Red plays with themes of free will, corporate malfeasance and how stories can define us. It is interesting to consider a robot that prefers virtual fictional versions of humans to real ones, given the nature of a robots mind and theory of. It is also interesting to consider a robot that has no interest in becoming more human and whose only real use for humans is for them to keep making soap operas for its viewing pleasure.


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Hello @edumurphy

Murderbot is a robot/android/full-body cyborg It is made clear that Murderbot has organic parts, external-cosmetic and internal-biomimetic

This reminds me of Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy.

This phenomena is not strange as we have seen lots of artificial functioning hearts built by scientists.

I have always been fascinated by the Sci Fi genre and I sometimes wonder the thought process of the people who write them.

Nice Story line, I am also inspired to create a Murderbot here on Steemit and cause Havoc 😂



Maybe it's about time you wrote one. Like the review is just cool. Maybe you could write your own book then we review 😀

The boss!
That was an awesome review, of a truth, you control the words.
Nice one bro.

This is a very great review. I have missed your write-ups. Hope everything is fine? How come you have not written in a long while?

Hehehehheehe, no be write I write so? 🤔😁

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Wonderful review....

🔥 Review, i got to check out Martha Wells & her books now! Thanks for bringing it to my attention now 😃

punchlines were dope....the science fictional storyline was also not bad...lets hope you win the contest....more grease to your elbow

Its so funny that you did this and didn't tell me. The one time you could spam me guilt free!!

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