Tuesday, February 12, 2019

All Systems Red

Martha Wells
Completed 2/9/2019, Reviewed 2/9/2019
3 stars

This is a well-written, fast paced, action packed android novella, but I didn’t care for it.  It’s the first in the Murderbot Diaries, and is the February read for my science fiction book club.  It begins with a gripping scene that should drag you in, but I found it to be just tedious.  There are times I like high action space opera and times I don’t.  This was one of those times I didn’t.

The narrator is an android who secretly calls itself Murderbot.  It’s a security android, made up of human and mechanical parts.  It has hacked its governor chip so that it won’t accidently kill any humans.  The side effect is that it wants to figure itself out.  It doesn’t really like to be around humans and would just rather watch soap operas than work.  But it’s assigned as the security bot to a team of scientists on a planetary excavation expedition, so it has to protect its team.

The book opens with Murderbot saving two team members from some giant life form that tries to eat them.  The scene is well-written and should have been riveting.  I found myself not really caring.  I was bogged down by the jargon the narrator used.  Several reviewers have commented that they were apathetic toward the novel because the narrator was apathetic.  This may have been part of it for me too, although I think I should have liked Murderbot’s quirkiness.  It doesn’t take initiative, only doing things it’s asked to do.  It’s misanthropic.  However, its gut instinct to protect the lives of its wards is profound, and the saving of the two team members is heroic. 

The main plot of the book is that a neighboring expedition goes offline and Murderbot and its team go to investigate.  It finds all the researchers dead and the security androids are the murderers.  They find the androids have been sabotaged.  They deduce it is not their company, which is really cheap and could easily be infiltrated, but probably an outside organization.  Somehow, they must survive this organization’s attempt to eradicate all the expedition teams from the planet. 

I give this novella three stars out of five.  I recognize that it was written well and that the action scenes were probably exciting.   This book has gotten a lot of love from reviewers and critics alike.  It won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for Best Novella.  I simply could not get into it.  However, I would recommend it to people who like military or hard science fiction. 

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