Book Review: All Systems Red
by Martha Wells
A very fun novella!
The premise is that a team of scientists are performing tests on a distance planet, protected by their security robot, but one who has become self-aware, hacked their software, and calls itself “Murderbot”. Another science team fails to check in, so Murderbot and the team must discover what happened.
I wish this story were longer. I found the brevity of the tale weakened the emphasis on characters especially. The concepts and the setting were very intriguing, but a lot was glossed over. The action starts so quickly that there is no time to get to know any of the other characters. Similarly, even Murderbot seemed to go from disliking her humans to caring for them quite quickly - it would have been more emotionally resonant if it had progressed slower. I get that there was a time crunch for the plot, but there were several instances of downtime where the author could have extrapolated more or given the other characters some more conversations while Murderbot watched.
Murderbot was a very interesting character – a self-described misanthrope who wants to be left alone, yet there is a deep sense of loneliness about them. She has a desire to understand her sense of self, as she has no reservations regarding her body, which is not so much a super-solider but a cheap cannon-fodder tank. While her wrestling with her sense of self and part of the team was touched upon, I could have used more of that. It didn’t want some lofty “desire to be human” plot, but just a longer story! Despite Murderbot being a gender-neutral robot, I kept thinking of her as female, possibly because I’m female and the story is told in first person. It’s interesting, because reviews seem to fall to one side or the other on Murderbot’s gender, despite her having no need for it. Oh, us humans and our need to categorize!
Overall, it’s a very fun little book that’s easy to read and the action scenes are exciting and well-paced.