Tuesday marks the release of All Systems Red, the start of Martha Wells's newest series, The Murderbot Diaries. And if the name of the series isn't enough to catch your attention, maybe this review will!
It calls itself Murderbot. A SecUnit, assigned to protect a group of scientists involved in mapping and studying a mostly unknown planet, Murderbot spends her ample downtime binge watching shows. Of course, in order to do that in the first place, this unit had to hack her governor module. Which means it's pretty much autonomous - something its clients and the company can never find out.
Built for protection and defence, the SecUnit is a combination of organic and mechanical parts. Typically, orders and upgrades are downloaded directly, much as that of a computer. But because Murderbot has hacked its system, it can pick and choose. Which may choose to be a saving grace for both Murderbot and its humans.
All Systems Red immediately caught my attention. The synopsis, the cover art, and the always present fact that the Tor.com novellas have in large part been some of my favorite reading of late. The promise was one of fabulousness and Wells definitely came through.
Murderbot is an android. It has human pieces and robot pieces and, as we learn, a mind of its own. The people around it, as we learn, don't really understand what the 'droids are or what they're capable of. And it's clear that Murderbot's own owners (the Company) are in the same boat.
Whether others are capable of the same is unclear as Murderbot is our narrator. What is clear is that in this case, the people its been tasked to protect are a bit unlike others its worked with before. And when Murderbot saves one of them, they begin to warm to it in ways its not sure it really likes.
Of course part of the fun in this tale is the fact that Wells humanizes Murderbot. I mean, it binge watches TV! And it forms its own opinions - opinions about the people it's tasked to protect, people it's worked for in the past, even the situation on the planet. Some of that is programmed, sure, but it does become very clear early on that Murderbot has thought and even emotion capabilities well beyond what can be explained by simple programming.
I loved All Systems Red and certainly don't want to spoil the fun for you! Murderbot definitely joins the ranks of favorite 'droids and bots in SF, though, and I'm dying to read more of its "diaries."