Martha Wells, All Systems Red, St Martin's Press, 2017.
All Systems Red is a fun and entertaining scifi novella. Though part of a larger series with future upcoming volumes, this first book is a stand alone and can be read independently.
It is a security unit. Part organic, part machine, it is watching over a group of humans who are surveying a planet and who bought the survey rights from the company that also lends the security unit. But it is slightly bored. Happily, it hacked its own system and is now autonomous, so it can quietly watch entertainment feeds while the humans dig. And then everything goes horribly wrong.
All Systems Red ain't much but it's fun: I read it in one sitting as I was very engrossed by it. The main character, the security unit that calls itself Murderbot is a very interesting character with all the characteristics of the introvert and its candour when it comes to explaining that it'd rather avoid the humans it is with is quite refreshing.
The novella is focused around the action: who is trying to kill the group of humans it is looking after and why? The pace is sustained and the writing flows with it. Though it's not an Earth shatteringly original story, it is well done and it's very entertaining.
Wells dances around wider issues like the rights of Murderbot, because Murderbot seems mostly uninterested by its own fate as long as it doesn't have to face too many humans and it can still watch the entertainment feed. But as it should be a series, this will probably be addressed again along the line. Or not... It would actually be quite interesting if it didn't.
All in all, I find out that I don't have much to say of this novella because it doesn't have much to offer in terms of themes or issues. But it has a great character I enjoyed and related to, it has a great pace and a nicely entertaining solid story. As far as I'm concerned, I'll happily read the subsequent volumes. So if you just want a bit of fun with a scifi thriller, this will be exactly the security unit you are looking for.
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