Popular Book Review: All Systems Red

I review a ‘popular’ new book every month.  This month, I borrowed Martha Wells’s All Systems Red from the library.  I enjoyed this book a lot and basically binged it.  It was short, and the plot was simple, but the unique narrator made it interesting.  A lot of people compare it to Ancillary Justice for its non-human protagonist, and I did see some similarities.

I’d say read this one.  It was pretty good.

The Book

All Systems Red (Kindle Single): The Murderbot Diaries by [Wells, Martha]The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red
Author: Martha Wells
Published 2017
Amazon Link

I rented this from my local library.  There were 19 copies at my local branch, so I bet your library has a copy too.  This thing has a lot of awards, and it deserves them.  I’m GOING to read the sequels, all of which have been published.

Non-Spoiler Review

The plot is simple.  The characters are not.

With nuanced characters and a host of good-guys, All Systems Red isn’t like most books I’ve read before.  I was intrigued by all the humans in the book just as much as I was with Murderbot.  The mystery built up well, and the revelation of Murderbot’s solutions was pretty good.

I wasn’t as big a fan of the end – some of the deceptive pieces of Murderbot’s and Mensah’s solutions didn’t really make sense to me.  At the same time, I’d be willing to read the book over again and will seek out the sequels when I get time.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones


Murderbot works for its company, doing the most half-assed version of its job possible.  Because it has hacked its own governor module, it tries to spend its time watching TV as often as it can.  When a rogue survey crew on the planet murders its sister team, though, Murderbot decides to help its humans survive and get off the planet.

The plot was simple, as you can tell above.  That’s ok in a novella, especially one with as complex a set of sci-fi premises and interesting characters.

Like I said in the intro, though, the end got a little confusing.  The rogue survey team showed up at Murderbot and crew’s habitat, and Murderbot tried to convince them both to stay away from the emergency beacon and then… go to it?  I wasn’t really sure why the deception element was necessary.  The pacing also changed drastically at that point, and I didn’t like the sudden increase in speed (even if it was just trying to take the action into account).

I don’t like how that seems so negative, and I feel like I must be an idiot for not seeing the answer in a book so popular.  Still, that’s the way the cookie crumbled.


The main character, Murderbot, was great.  It was so very shy, and its desires definitely inhuman.  I liked how it was clear that Murderbot was, for the most part, pretty lazy.  Wells did a fantastic job integrating emotions into a thinking machine, and I appreciated the artificial life she imagined.

There were eight crew members in the PreservationAux survey team, but I think it’s best to just stick with talking about Dr. Mensah, their leader.  I love it – love it – when leaders in books are actually good and considerate.  Whene Star Trek, you know that an admiral is going to be incompetent at best, a traitor at worst.  Mensah was an excellent leader, and her concern for her underlings was readily noticeable.  Without her, I think Murderbot would have continued doing a half-assed job.  She was necessary to the book, and I liked how she was portrayed.


The book was mostly on a deserted planet being scoped out by survey teams.  The greater setting – the interstellar series of connected worlds – was still right on the cusp of every thought.  The uselessness of the bond company, and all corporate-political entities, was paramount.  Though the individual people seemed to be ok, the status of the greater world seemed pretty grim.

The premise of the SecUnits, or organic-enhanced machines programmed for security, was interesting.  Even Murderbot seemed right on the edge of dropping off of sentience at times, and it didn’t seem to question that it was an object.  Only at the end, when it is freed, does it begin to claim its own life.  I’m interested to see if that’s the way other SecUnits are.

Next week:

Next week, it’ll already be July, and I’ll reveal the new monthly theme!

Hasn’t time just flown?

2 thoughts on “Popular Book Review: All Systems Red

  1. booksofb says:

    Thanks for a fun review – I enjoyed “All Systems Red” but thought the 2nd novella in the series – “Artificial Condition” was even better. The only complaint I have with these is that the published took a full length novel and broke it up into 4 separately released novellas. Just a bit too commercially driven for me. Still – the story is good enough and I like Martha Wells enough so that it’ll work with me. I’ll buy and read them all despite the added cost. Cheers, Brian

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