Thursday, October 12, 2017

REVIEW | All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Publication Year: 2017
Genre: Science Fiction (novella)
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #1
Awards: None
Format: Paperback (from Library)
Narrator: NA

WHY?: A LOT of love out there for this novella, it sounded fun and I need some quicker reads to catch up to my reading goal for the year.  

SYNOPSIS:  Self-monikered Murderbot, is a security AI assigned to protect a group of scientists looking for usable resources on an unexplored planet.  Murderbot has long ago hacked its governor chip, meaning it has free will, but it must keep this fact hidden or risk being dismantled, or worse, become a mindless drone again for The Company.  When things go wrong on the expedition, however, Murderbot finds it harder and harder to stay hidden and still keep the humans safe.


My affection for stories about Artificial Intelligence was firmly established a few years ago when I re-watched Star Trek: The Next Generation and found that Data has become my favorite character.  Or maybe it goes all the way back to my teenage years when I unexpectedly fell in love with Terminator 2 which I saw 7 times in the movie theater (I happened to work at a theater at the time so it's not that impressive...or geeky - Much). I think I really enjoy the scope stories abut AIs give to ask big questions like...what does it mean to be human?...what is life?...what constitutes sentience?... but in a way that is more entertaining and less stuffy than reading a philosophy text book.   

And that's the main reason you should read All Systems Red - it's hugely entertaining!  Murderbot is one of the best characters I've read all year.  The very vision of a bored, apathetic, socially awkward corporate worker who can't wait to get off and lose itself in the thousands of hours of entertainment serials it can download.  It has a wicked, sardonic sense of humor and cynical outlook on life that was a beauty to behold and often made me laugh out loud.  We've mostly all been there and had to try to hide that negative, shy, pathetic side of ourselves.

The difference with Murderbot is that it's a made thing out of a blend of organic and inorganic materials and it is not supposed to have a personality. It's also not supposed to care about the humans it is guarding but even though it is inclined not to, it does, because they are a nice, intelligent, tight knit group of friends that don't make Murderbot do horrible or humiliating things.  Against its will, it develops an affection for them or, at least, doesn't want to see them die.

The story is also fast-paced and a lot of fun being part mystery, part sci-fi thriller and part action-adventure.  Given that this is a novella and only has a limited page count, Wells does an admirable job telling a well-rounded, satisfying and complete story that also left me wanting more and excited that this is book one in a series.  You can probably thank Murderbot for me wanting more!  

The society and and context of the "Sec Units" in the universe is also well established, which is again really impressive for such a short book especially since the world-building is well-integrated into the plot and does not slow the pace down one bit.

All in all this was a very enjoyable and neat bit of storytelling which I would highly recommend!

FINAL VERDICT: A really entertaining and well told AI novella! 4 out of 5 stars.

OTHER OPINIONS ARE AVAILABLE: Greg's Book Haven | The Book Smugglers

“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 35,00 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.” 
“Yes, talk to Murderbot about its feelings. The idea was so painful I dropped to 97 percent efficiency. I’d rather climb back into Hostile One’s mouth.”  

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