Wednesday, March 27, 2019

All Systems Red by Martha Wells


The Murderbot Diaries #1


Teaser: A “Construct” (half human(?), half robot) is supposed to be guarding an expedition on a planet when a neighboring expedition stops communicating. As they are trying to figure out what has happened they are also “attacked.” Good thing the Sec Unit (Security Unit) hacked its own governor module.

This is novella, so it is shorter than a novel, and told quite well. While there has to be some exposition for the self-styled Murderbot to give some background, it gets to the story quickly. Having read #2 already I am torn as to whether this novella stands on its own. If I didn’t know about the others than I would say that it does, but knowing about the others I would say it doesn’t, but only in the best way.

The best way means that even though the story wraps up quickly I want to read more about the character and this universe. While the tone is dark it is dark satire with some quite hilarious lines that somehow are relatable from a character that is almost not human at all.


In general the story takes precedence over the technology, although there are important technological issues that contribute to the story line. The world-building doesn’t dwell to much on any one concept.

Constructs: While the main character is certainly some semblance of sentient, it becomes clear that the organic/robot hybrids are considered non-human by the humans in most cases. This is obviously a very important topic as the main character struggles with caring and not caring about its possible equivalence.

The Feed: In some ways it might be a MacGuffin, in other ways it is just a souped up internet that strains the boundaries of what a software engineer like myself might think is possible. It might be possible, but is really used as an important plot device.

Finding Old Alien Artifacts: I think this is the most interesting and least described idea, maybe an actual MacGuffin, but my speculation is that it has something to do with the constructs.


While I can’t give it a straight, go-read-it-now recommendation for everyone, I would say that a audience with the maturity to not dwell on the language should certainly pick it up. The use of language certainly fits the character quite well and I don’t know if it could be told as well without it.

The exploration of concepts certainly makes this worth a read from the point of view that it touches on several past and modern issues. And as an aspiring writer I find reading an interesting sci fi novella such as this to be quite inspiring.

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