Review of KINDLE Novella All Systems Red – Book 1 of the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells #Brainfluffbookreview #AllSystemsRedbookreview

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I’d heard nothing but good about this novella and the author, so treated myself with a hoarded voucher – and I’m very glad I did…

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 love the snarky, cynical voice of the android protagonist, whose sharp-edged narration is in response to a previous traumatic incident, which has led to it calling itself Murderbot. Wells has managed to nail the weary acceptance of a life of drudgery and mistreatment – it is genuinely shocking when it casually mentions that some of the groups it has guarded have instructed the SecUnits shepherding them to fight each other. So it is very taken aback that this particular group of humans insist on treating it as a sentient being with feelings – and continue to do so. I also like the fact its hard-boiled façade abruptly disappears when it is looking after a badly injured scientist.

Wells’ narration is both skilful and engrossing as the troubling events start stacking up into a full-blown emergency. And this disillusioned, basic-model SecUnit is all that is keeping a frightened band of scientists alive in the face of overwhelming odds… The steady increase in tension is very well handled and I became engrossed in this memorable colony adventure.

My biggest grumble is that I wanted more – and it is an abiding problem I have with most novellas. Just as I am fully immersed into the world and the story-telling, it all comes to an abrupt end far too soon.
Highly recommended for science fiction fans – especially those who enjoy colony planet adventures.
9/10

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21 responses »

  1. I think the 2nd and 3rd novellas are already out, so you probably won’t have to wait long. I’m definitely treating myself to this series soon, I need to “meet” Murderbot😁

    • Yes… sadly, they will have to wait until I’ve won the lottery. I finished this morsel in one greedy gulp and they are not cheap. As I don’t reread, I simply can’t justify the cost:(.

  2. I loved this and just read the second one as well. It was also good. I agree that Wells handled his feelings well, when it came to the humans he supposedly didn’t care about, and also the tension, the way it slowly ratcheted up. Good stuff!

  3. I keep hearing such great things about Martha Wells. I haven’t tried one of her books yet, but this one is on my TBR after reading several excellent reviews for it. A snarky andtoid protagonist just sounds too fun to pass up!

  4. Woot! Glad you enjoyed it! I found murderbot to be an incredibly relatable character. 🙂 And I have the same problem with novellas! So now I tend to buy series novellas when they first come out (because I disagree with the “don’t buy series unless they’re finished” rule some people have), and then binge read them at a later date.

    • We have certainly followed that rule for the wonderful Penric and the Demon novella series that Lois McMaster Bujold has been releasing – and she has nailed the craft of novella writing, in common with Martha Wells:))

      • I really do wish that novellas were cheaper. I have come to love them so very much and yet their price point is too high. I read them in such a short amount of time that the money is not always worth it. I do think the publishers would make more on them in the long run if they lowered the price. The library happens to have the Murderbot ones so I am good there. But I really do want to read the whole Tor.com novella line. The price makes it prohibitive.
        x The Captain

      • And that’s exactly how I feel about them! I read fast and I don’t generally reread, so most novellas simply aren’t worth it. The honourable exceptions are Janet Edwards and Lois McMaster Bujold, who have both nailed the form (something many otherwise capable novelists seem unable to do) and ask a realistic price for their work.

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