**** All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells

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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.

This is quite a fun book to read, and definitely one you can easily do in one or two sittings, which is my favourite type of books. Once you start reading this novella, you can’t really stop, because the POV character is just so much fun and relatable.

Murderbot is a security droid that hacked its own systems so it wouldn’t have to obey to anyone, but keeps this fact secret because all it really wants to do is to zone out while on the job and watch tv shows. While it likes the team it currently works for, it would also prefer that they leave it alone and stop trying to get it to talk about its feelings. I mean, who among us wouldn’t say « same, my dude »?

A lot of sci-fi stories featuring a « sentient » robot spend a lot of time considering the question of, well, sentience itself, or how it processes feelings, or freedom and free will and all that jazz. It’s really refreshing to see a character that hasn’t really thought about these things and isn’t pressed to think about them either (until circomstances forces it to, which I assume will happen in the sequels) but instead just really wants to embrace this most human thing that is « leasure time ». It prefers the fake people in the tv stories than the real people it has to interact with.

But murderbot is also, despite its name, a good person at heart, and goes above and beyond to save its team during the course of the book, which rather funnily continues to exarcerbate one of the central conflict, namely that the humans want it to talk about its feelings and admit to being more than what it really is. Murderbot doesn’t want any of this, and spends a good part of the story being uncomfortable. This tension is probably more interesting than the actual « official » plot of the novel, which is a story of planetary exploration that isn’t, it itself, explored in all that much depth. Probably because the POV character, Murderbot, doesn’t give a rat’s ass about its clients reason to be on this planet.

Like I said. If you’ve ever done a job with utter boredom but still did it well because you have professionnal integrity despite the fact that you do not care, Murderbot is insanely relatable. If you have even been sit down to have a heart to heart and have wished that you were anywhere but there, maybe playing video games or thinking longingly of that book you were in the middle of reading, Murderbot is relatable.

After all, what is humanity but staring at your phone on the bus and wishing that everybody else would just leave you the heck alone? Turing test whom?

I would have given this book five stars if I wasn’t beholden to my own rating system, in which I consider five stars to be a book I would consider re-reading. While Murderbot was an amazin main character and I loved being in its head, the fact that it’s a novella means it has a plot that is resolved rather quickly and doesn’t necesserily holds enough depth to be entertaining in a re-read. If the book had been a tad bit longer, with a more complex motivation for the bad guys, more character development on the part of the main cast, or more exploration of the « mystery » of the planet they’re on, I might be saying otherwise. (It was a good mystery! I *want* to know more about that planet! I wouldn’t have said no to 10k more words, easy.) As it stands there were a few too many main characters and they didn’t all end up doing something interesting enough to justify their presence in the story, despite being fun and well-written.

Don’t get me wrong; I liked it enough that I would be first in line to see a movie or series adaptation, and I will start reading the sequels as soon as possible. Which is probably tomorrow as I already have them in hand. Can’t wait!

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