'All Systems Red' - Book Review

All Systems Red
by Martha Wells

Martha Wells appears to have written quite a few books, although I wasn't aware of her until Tor Books decided to give this novella away as an ebook. It sounded more appealing than most of Tor's give-aways, so I downloaded it. And it was a lot of fun. Our first person protagonist is a "SecUnit," partially organic, partially robotic, all controlled by commands from its parent computer system. But it's obviously as intelligent as a human - and just as temperamental. It's mostly interested in binge-watching "Sanctuary Moon," its favourite media show. Rather importantly, it's disabled its own "governor" module - the one that usually gives it commands. So it can choose to ignore those commands if it wants to. It refers to itself as "Murderbot."

It's been assigned to a small survey group on a recently charted world. But anomalies begin to show up quite soon - including their map of the planet being tampered with. Warnings about dangerous fauna don't show in the survey record, but the dangerous fauna does show.

As things begin to get ugly, it's forced to choose between following the increasingly problematic orders from its governor unit and actually saving its humans. As cranky and dismissive as it is, Murderbot does have something strongly resembling a moral compass.

My favourite kind of science fiction makes you think about your assumptions about the future, forces you to reconsider your vision of how things will change. But sometimes it's a pleasure to read a book that just has a good plot and is fun: and that's what this is.