All Systems Red
by Martha Wells
I’m jumping on the Murderbot train. In this novella, we are charmed from the start with the Murderbot’s voice drawing us into a tense situation where the two scientists she (Murderbot doesn’t actually have a gender in this story as a construct of organic and non organic parts in a humanoid shape but she reads female to me so pardon the genderizing) is charged to protect are being attacked by a giant unidentified rock-diving monster on a planet they’ve come to survey.
We get a great introduction to Murderbot’s unique status as a sentient tool that’s hacked its governor module, its weapon capabilities, and its sense of duty and dismayed affection for the humans it shepherds.
Murderbot spends the novella alternating between figuring out who wants to kill her charges and protecting the against their own foolishness, wincing away at prolonged contact and awkward questions tied to her legal and semi-human status, and wanting to watch more entertainment media. There’s cool sciencey, computer programming bits, some sly commentary on the mercenary nature of corporations vis-a-vis treatment of human life, and some pleasingly inept bad guys.
Truthfully, as an introvert in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, it totally get it. This was a perfect escapist fantasy complete with compelling Murderbot narrator somehow managing to be extremely sympathetic. Can’t wait to find out what Murderbot does next in the sequel.