Great Novella! ‘The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red’ by Martha Wells

14-03-2019 01:03

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Genres: SciFi, Novella, Murderbot, Robot, ALL OF THE AWARDS

Similar books: Shards of Honor(Setting), Mirror Dance(Character of Mark)

Previous books in the series/by the author reviewed: Dominaria, The Cloud Roads

Rating: Highly Recommended

Here’s the TL;DR for my review:

  • Pros
    • Stars a painfully shy killing machine robot who loves watching soap operas.
    • Space opera adventure, with good scientists against evil corporations, with our painfully shy robot along for the ride.
    • Is a tightly written novella, took me only three hours to read.
  • Mixed
    • The main character spends most of it’s time in it’s head, so there’s not much dialog. Great for characterization of the shyness, bad for fleshing out the surrounding characters.
  • Cons
    • Takes place on an alien world, but the author didn’t take the opportunity to feature as much of the alien-ness as I would have liked.
    • The protagonist was knocked unconscious during the climax, so we don’t witness how things played out, only the aftermath after Murderbot woke back up.

Spoiler-ific Review

A good novella is tightly written, compact in size and easy to understand and read, conveying it’s themes in an easy-to-swallow package. This is one such novella.

Murderbot is the nom de guerre of a run-of-the-mill security robot who has hacked it’s own governor module and gained free will. That said, Murderbot doesn’t actually do much murdering. Instead it much prefers to hang out in it’s cubicle during it’s off hours and watch soap opera serials. But, of course, if the universe learns of it’s free will Murderbot will be killed, so it has to keep it’s soap opera addiction a secret.

These days Murderbot is a security contractor droid working with PreservationAux- a nation of scientists who are investigating a planet in order to determine if they want to colonize it. It’s Murderbot’s job to keep these scientists safe in the face of carnivorous megafauna, catastrophic equipment failure and anything else which pops up. Murderbot, hates this job though, and does the absolute minimum so it can get back to it’s soap operas sooner rather than later.

But strange accidents keep happening. First a massive monster nearly eats two of the scientists, a monster whose existence was redacted from the ‘warning’ list the scientists were looking out for. Next they discover vasts swaths of the map which were scanned previously were deleted by unknown hands. Third their autopilot fails mid-flight and everyone nearly dies- Murderbot included. Murderbot and the scientists get suspicious. But when they want to get in contact with the other colonies on the planet they can’t for the satellite has mysteriously turned off.

Murderbot and the crew go to the other scientist colony on the planet, only to discover that everyone has been killed. The only survivors are the security contractor droids present there- and they only survived because they killed all the scientists.

Plot: is great. Like most novellas the plot is simple: someone’s trying to kill the good guys, and it’s the POV’s job to keep the good guys alive. They have to deal with nasty local wildlife and antagonistic parties unknown in the meantime, while waiting from rescue from offworld. This plot served the novella-sized story perfectly.

Pacing: is good. There were never any boring patches, nor patches which were too fast.

Characterization: Murderbot is a robot who hates it’s job and only gives it it’s half-best. I have to say I’ve read about a character who just doesn’t give a shit about it’s dead-end job. I loved the twist ending.

Constructive criticism:

Murderbot is so antisocial/shy that it doesn’t willingly engage in conversation with the other characters. Because this is a first person story, the other characters don’t get much characterization as a result.

Also, Murderbot was knocked unconscious during the climax of the story, so we never see how the group of scientists are rescued from their predicament. Think ‘The Hobbit’ where Bilbo naps through the Battle of Five Armies, but not quite that bad.

Overall, loved it.

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