If memories serves, I first became aware of Murderbot through Cory Doctorow and was intrigued. Then came all the love for Murderbot from Cannonballers. When bingo was announced and there was a “Fresh Start” square, I knew immediately what I was going to read, All Systems Red.
All Systems Red is set in a distant, space faring future, where all planetary exploration is done through the a corporate entity referred to only as ‘the company’. Company requirements demand that Security Units (SecUnits) must be included as part of the package for their safety and to get insurance for the endeavor. Murderbot began as a programmed company SecUnit construct made of inorganic and organic matter, following whatever orders were downloaded into his system, then he hacked his governing module.
Without the module, Murderbot could have become a killing machine but instead discovered the feeds for the entertainment channels. Loathing humans, he would prefer nothing better than to be left alone to watch his media. I can certainly sympathize but change loathing for ‘disliking most humans’, and watching media to ‘reading a book’.
Martha Wells has created a highly entertaining character in Murderbot. He despises and looks down on humans but loves the media they create. Even though he has free will, Murderbot is technically property owned by the company and thus he has no escape. His current job is an easy one so he mentally checks out and dodges duty when possible. When things start to go sideways, Murderbot uses inspiration from media in dealing with the current situation and his human exploration team begin to realize that Murderbot is not a usual SecUnit.
None of this is a terribly good explanation for what I enjoyed so much about this book. Part of it is Murderbot’s attitude, his casual disdain for human emotions, seeing himself as above them, yet he clearly feels too. Another is his internal dialogue and wry observations. The mystery and Murderbot’s internal struggles are interesting. Novellas are a format that I tend to not care for but this was the perfect length for the adventure contained in All Systems Red. Left to my own devices, I would have read it in one sitting and can’t wait to read Murderbot’s further adventures!