“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.”
I started listening to All Systems Red on Scribd, now Everand, hoping to pass some time with something fun and straightforward while doing kitchen chores. I ended up cleaning the kitchen, reorganizing the pantry and fridge, and cooking dinner and meals for the next day, hoping to listen to as much of this as possible before putting it away for the night. It is a compulsive and addictive read. Once you start reading it, it is so short and exciting you will only want to stop once you reach the end.
“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.”
All Systems Red is a perfect and tidy story. When I say tidy, it isn’t derogatory. Novellas have to get a lot done in a short amount of time. The author needs to convey thought, history, emotion, narrative, and plot progression, so all choices must be concise and tidy. Wells created an exceptional character in Murderbot, Murderbot being the name it calls itself. It is cynical, confused, and courageous, but more than anything, Murderbot has very human emotions. This character works quite well within the context of a novella because the reading audience has a cultural dialog regarding machines with human emotions, i.e., The Terminator. There is a limited amount of groundwork to be laid; we already have a feel for this scenario. Murderbot is an artificial life form with organic components, which work in tandem with its artificial ones to create the perfect killing machine.
How life works for the Murderbot is that it is deployed on contract through its host company, The Company. In the first installment of multiple novellas, Murderbot protects and defends a group of scientists and geographers on a barren planet. Murderbot hacks its mainframe to start making independent choices besides its company programming. Most of its decisions consist of which type of soap opera to watch on the entertainment channels available at its outpost. However, when another outpost on the same planet gets attacked, Murderbot must step in to protect the scientists to whom it has become attached. What plays out over the brief story are exciting scenes, great dialog (both internal and external), and an excellent plot jump to the next novella.
I loved All Systems Red, and it is easily understood why the author received so many well-deserved accolades. It is fun and enjoyable.