All Systems Red
by Martha Wells
Tom Doherty, 2017

All Systems Red is a far-future science fiction novella, the first of The Murderbot Diaries series. And as you might expect, it is the diary of Murderbot.

Murderbot is not actually a very good muderbot, as such things go. It mostly stands in the corner, watching vids on its internal feed and trying its best not to be noticed. Humans, it thinks, don't really understand murderbots. But then, some murder happens. What's a murderbot to do? It jumps up, grabs the human from the jaws of the hostile alien, shoots some things, drags the wounded to the shuttle, and manages not to bleed out until they make it back to base.

Which would be fine -- this is what murderbots are for, after all -- except that in the fight Murderbot lost some of its armor, and now the humans have seen its biological parts, including a standard issue human face. And these humans, being more decent than some, have decided to treat Murderbot as a human... which is a problem, both on a personal level, and also because it is very hard to foil a murderous plot against your humans when they refuse to allow their tank to enter battle alone.

This is a quick read, but even so it is one of my favorite recent works of science fiction, with a charismatic hero that is convinced that it is an antihero, fast moving action, and enough SF trappings that you could fool yourself into thinking that it is hard science fiction. I would compare it to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, but shorter, harder, faster, and with more murderous robots.

The second book in the series is Artificial Condition, and is likewise short and very good.


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