Book Review - All Systems Red
I’m not sure why I’m late the party (there are likely many reasons), but I just started reading the Murderbot Diaries from Martha Wells with the first installment All Systems Red. Though short – much more appropriate to call this a novella than a novel at 150 pages – it doesn’t lack for excitement or enjoyment.
With tones from Robocop, the hero is a (seemingly) reluctant Security Unit (SecUnit) cyborg who is shy and suspicious about those around her. With her own personality quirks and self-image issues - the term “murderbot” is an internal label of how she sees herself - the character is both authentic and captivating. She would rather just stay in her own, protective storage and repair container watching entertainment vids than building relationships with her clients. With a strong dose of skepticism and snark, how the SecUnit navigates interactions with her humans, and often assuming different scenarios in her head, touches the introvert in all of us.
A traditional “hero saves the day” story – she is a security bot with weapons and armor – Wells presents it as a fish out of water, the SecUnit struggling to decide what to do next when all her humans are counting on her. The action of the ‘A’ story is compelling as the planetary survey team (of which the cyborg is part) is attacked and must defend itself. The ‘B’ story of the cyborg learning to interact with her humans while trying to save the day is relatable.
Wells’ storytelling ability is as engaging as it is direct. There’s good humor, believable characters, palpable tension, and exciting action that makes this short book a real page-turner. I found it hard to put down.
Published in 2017, All Systems Red and the entire Murderbot Diaries series is worthy of its multiple Hugo Awards. Highly Recommended. Score: 77/100.