I had a glitch yesterday and lost all my free Tor ebooks off my Kindle. I was in the middle of reading Too Like the Lightning. I frantically went over to the Tor book of the month site to see if I could get it back. I could not, but I could recover this month’s offering, Martha Wells’ All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries. Fortunately, the lovely and amazing teresaelectro was able to help me out with Too Like the Lightning. In the meantime, I had started Martha Wells’ novella. The very first paragraph hooked me.
I COULD HAVE BECOME a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.
All Murderbot wants to do is watch the entertainment stream and be left alone. I’m not sure that I have ever identified with a fictional character more. Murderbot joins the small but memorable company of depressed robots and androids in science fiction – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s Marvin, Rogue One’s K-2SO, and arguably 2001’s Hal. Have I missed any? I confess I read Murderbot’s narration in K-2SO’s voice.
I’d seen it on the news feeds. And the entertainment feed, where the bots were all happy servants or were secretly in love with their guardians. If it showed the bots hanging out watching the entertainment feed all through the day cycle with no one trying to make them talk about their feelings, I would have been a lot more interested.
Obviously, things go wrong and Murderbot is not allowed to watch tv and avoid human interaction. The tightly plotted novella is told entirely from the perspective of Murderbot. We are thrown into a future of humanity with only the information Murderbot cares to know (not much). As Murderbot becomes more invested (mostly in keeping their shows and books), we learn more about why the humans are where they are and why. Murderbot’s fragile and wry self awareness gives a dark humor to their struggle to keep their humans alive. All Systems Red is the beginning of a four book series. The three following books look like they will be published in short order – Artificial Condition on May 8, Rogue Protocol on August 7, and Exit Strategy on October 2.