Locus: “Murderbot,” as the sardonic first-person narrator in Martha Wells’s All Systems Red refers to itself, would simply prefer to be left in peace to watch serialized entertainments in its own high-tech suit. Sadly, given that the planetary expedition Murderbot is part of goes horribly wrong when one of the scientists is almost eaten by the local fauna, it isn’t going to get its wish.
All Systems Red is a light but interesting story about a creation that is half human (maybe) and half non-organic parts, who is learning to deal with actual humans. Murderbot resists being pulled into the circle of fleshy creatures around it. Really, it would just as soon stay on the outside.
The humans, too, aren’t so sure what to make of Murderbot, who was foisted upon them by the corporation who owns exploration rights to the planet they are on. They don’t trust it or its motivations, all of which are complicated by its unreadable responses. Add to that inherent tension Wells’s brisk pacing, an intriguing enough mystery, and lucid action sequences, and this story is a great kick-off for a continuing series of Murderbot Diaries, which are being planned. With this novella Wells, who is better known for her fantasy work, proves that she can play in a science fictional world as well.