Book Review: All Systems Red

Award Winning Novel

Written by Martha Wells, this series has won the Nebula and Hugo. All Systems Red is the first novella of the series.

Emotional Portrait of One Robot

In sharp contrast to the classic I, Robot novel by Asimov—an intellectual exercise tied together by loosely related short stories—All Systems Red is an intimate, emotional portrait of one robot. The narrator is a SecUnit, a sort of security guard; it privately calls itself Murderbot. During downtime, the robot binges on serials (here on earth we know them as soap operas). This eccentric creature is also loyal, self-sacrificing, and has its own form of ethics.

Assigned to protect a group of scientists working on an alien planet, Murderbot is soon ensnared by a conspiracy threatening his human clients. This tale offers plenty of adventure and robot-on-robot fighting. The charm and originality of the story, however, derives from the robot’s rich internal life.

Coming-of-Age Story?

Like many of the robots in this universe, Murderbot is sentient. Robots have little agency. But due to a work accident, this SecUnit does. Nobody is the boss of it. All Systems Red might be considered a robot coming-of-age story, except that Murderbot is not immature—and has guns coming out of its forearms.

What Murderbot does with its autonomy took me by surprise. In a good way.

It’s a Keeper

I highly recommend the Murderbot Diaries series.

1 thought on “Book Review: All Systems Red”

  1. I’ve been meaning to read the Murderbot Diaries, but it’s always been lower on my list! I’ll have to fast track it now for this intriguing story!


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