I’m sure most of you have found yourself in the galling position of finally reading a book that one of your reps or colleagues has been urging you to read for years and discovering that lo, they were absolutely right. What have you been thinking all this time? That is the position I find myself in regarding All Systems Red, Murderbot Diaries Volume 1.
Ellen Pyle, my esteemed MPS/Tor representative for this slim science fiction novella by Martha Wells, has nudged me to read Murderbot at every opportunity. “Tell me you’ve read Murderbot,” she would put forward. After replying in the negative time after time I stand before you today to acknowledge that my reticence was spectacularly ill grounded, that my premonition was askew, my laggardliness shameful, that I was an ass not to dive right into this supremely enjoyable little book.
The primary reason for the book’s quality is its fascinating, sardonic, likeable and vulnerable first person narrator, a part organic part robotic Secbot (security robot) provided by The Company to a private survey team on an unexplored planet. The Company, to its survey group customers, provides equipment, habitat, technical support and security, one Secbot per 10 crew members. Unlike its Secbot peers, the being who privately refers to itself as Murderbot is a free agent. It has hacked its governor module, a fact it is hiding from both the Company and its new crew. The story is a tightly knit, rapidly unfolding series of unpacked mystery elements with interpersonal developments powered along in its wake. Indeed, All Systems Red is one extended series of reveals and surprises, conveyed by a uniquely engaging voice.
It is, like all great books, timely as well. Who better to explore and elucidate the nature of humanity under strain than a partly human being? It works wonderfully as a crossover too; Murderbot’s unfiltered emotions, its combination of shyness and virtuosity, vulnerability and confusion over what it wants for itself gives the story a wide age appeal. It’s also really short, making it a sure favorite for high school assignment selection.
And so I here I am come full circle, taking up Ellen’s mantle. If you don’t love Murderbot, the Company must have gotten to you first. If you haven’t read All Systems Red don’t follow my slothful example. I literally made up for lost time by reading it over again as soon as I was done. Get your copy straightaway and then do obvious things, like reading more in the series and selling them with abandon at the bookstore!