Book report: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

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Today’s book report comes to us courtesy of someone on twitter - no I don’t remember who, sorry - tweeting that Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries were some of the best and funniest science fiction out there, and of course I wanted to get some best and fun things in my life. And hey it also turns out that these books are novellas, so All Systems Red jumped to the top of my reading queue because I sure do love to check things off my list quickly.

Right now I’m staring down a pile of five books I’ve borrowed from the library (it was six, but then I read All Systems Red), as well as one borrowed ebook, two printed books that I own, and one ebook I paid for, but am technically only leasing, according to my service agreement. Auckland Libraries lends books out for four weeks, which is plenty of time to read a book, but not necessarily enough time to read roughly nine books. Sure, I could read the books in the order I borrowed them (they didn’t all come home with me on the same day), but that puts those later loans at risk of going unread. I can read the books with other people waiting for them first, and hope to get a renewal on the books I leave for later. Or, and I’m just making this up now and I’m not sure if it’s actually how I’m going to do things, I could read the shortest books first.

Now, if I read the shortest books first I’ll maybe never get around to the longest books, and they’ll end up going back to the library unread. Then I go to the back of the queue, and instead I have to read the really long print books I bought that I want to read, obviously, but I guess I’m also really putting off reading. But forget the long books for a second: if I read the short books first I will probably read more books in the long run, and I will thusly have won at reading!

All Systems Red book cover

Our narrator in All Systems Red, the series’ titular Murderbot, is also concerned with counting the time it has passed in terms of hours of entertainment enjoyed. This self-liberated security robot has freed itself from corporate control and now wants nothing more than to be left alone so it can watch TV shows it has downloaded from the net. Murderbot really hates having to talk directly to the humans forced to rent it for a surveying trip to a strange new planet.

Martha Wells’ narrator-bot wants nothing more than to crawl back into its utility closet, but instead it is dragged into an tense and deadly reality featuring monsters, corporate espionage, hacked robots, and space intrigue. Murderbot’s love of the soaps informs how it understands the humans in its team. But, as Murderbot is quick to remind us, the soaps are also a poor mechanism for understanding how the human world works, and where a rogue murderbot might fit into this world. The binge-watching may be a frame of reference for the world, but it is primarily a means of escape from thinking too much about what it all means.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells is available at Auckland Libraries.

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