A Terrible Killing Machine Failure in All Systems Red by Martha Wells

“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.” 

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Synopsis

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.

Stats

  • ★★★★★
  • ebook
  • 144 pages
  • Published May 2nd 2017 by Tor.com
  • Original Title All Systems Red
  • ISBN0765397528 (ISBN13: 9780765397522)
  • Edition Language English
  • SeriesThe Murderbot Diaries #1

Awards

  • Hugo Award for Best Novella (2018)
  • Nebula Award for Best Novella (2017)
  • Locus Award for Best Novella (2018)
  • Philip K. Dick Award Nominee (2018)
  • ALA Alex Award (2018)
  • Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Science Fiction (2017)

My Thoughts

I started listening to All Systems Red on Scribd with the hopes of passing some time listening to something fun and simple while doing kitchen chores. Boy, was I wrong. I ended up not only cleaning the kitchen, reorganizing the pantry, fridge, cooking dinner, and meals for the next day in the hopes of listening to as much of this as possible before having to put it away for the night. It is compulsive and addictive read. Once you start reading it, it is so short and exciting you will not want to stop till you get to 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 by Martha Wells

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 coney, thought, history, emotion, narrative, and plot progression, so all of the choices the author makes need to be concise and tidy. In Martha Wells, All Sytems Red she created an exceptional character in Murderbot, Murderbot being the name he calls himself. He 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 isn’t a lot of groundwork to be laid, we already have a feel for what this scenario could look like. Murderbot is an artificial life form with organic components, and these components 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 the quadrilogy of short stories, Murderbot is protecting and defending a group of scientists and geographers on an inhospitable planet. Murderbot hacks its mainframe to start making independent choices aside from 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 needs to step in to protect the scientists that it has become attached to. What plays out over the brief story is exciting scenes, great dialog (both internal and external), and an excellent plot jump to the next novella. I loved this, and it is easily understood why the author received so many well-deserved accolades. It is funny and enjoyable.

Questions

  1. what do you think of how thinking machines are portrayed in modern media?
  2. How do you like how Murderbot named himself?

Procurement

I listened to an audio recording of this on Scribd.


About the Author

Martha Wells has written many fantasy novels, including The Books of the Raksura series (beginning with The Cloud Roads), the Ile-Rien series (including The Death of the Necromancer) as well as YA fantasy novels, short stories, media tie-ins (for Star Wars and Stargate: Atlantis), and non-fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel is The Harbors of the Sun in 2017, the final novel in The Books of the Raksura series. She has a new series of SF novellas, The Murderbot Diaries, published by Tor.com in 2017 and 2018. She was also the lead writer for the story team of Magic: the Gathering‘s Dominaria expansion in 2018. She has won a Nebula Award, a Hugo Award, an ALA/YALSA Alex Award, a Locus Award, and her work has appeared on the Philip K. Dick Award ballot, the USA Today Bestseller List, and the New York Times Bestseller List. Her books have been published in eleven languages. 

She has had short stories in the magazines Black GateRealms of FantasyLone Star StoriesLightspeed Magazine, and Stargate Magazine, and in the Tsunami Relief anthology ElementalThe Other Half of the SkyTales of the Emerald SerpentMech: Age of Steel, and The Gods of Lovecraft

She has essays in the nonfiction anthologies Farscape ForeverMapping the World of Harry PotterChicks Unravel Time, and The Kobold Guide to Magic.

11 comments

  1. Once again, you’re reviewing something I’ve wavered on for a while. Since you were totally right about the Bobiverse, I think it’s time for me to get to know Murderbot.

      1. Yep, all three.☺ I think I might wait and see if there’s an Audible sale for Murderbot, or maybe there will be a collection. It seems a little expensive for the length of the stories.

      2. Do you use scribd? That is what I use for just about anything and it is fabulous. That is where I listened to it. I pay 9.99 a month and their selection is crazy good. The only caveat as you near the 16th of every mon books stop being avaible temporarily due to licensing. But than they come right back. I must have listened to 10 audiobooks and read at least 5 since I started the subscription not long ago.
        https://www.scribd.com/audiobook/366150877/All-Systems-Red

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