All Systems Red (EBook, 2017, Tordotcom) 4 stars

"As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure."

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, …

Review of 'All Systems Red' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

I think the big appeal of this Hugo award winning novella was the care spent building the character of the viewpoint character. The author succeeded in giving Murderbot a convincingly non-human personality and interior life. I think of this as something distinct from worldbuilding, because that would be more a matter of fleshing out the natural and social structures the characters are placed in, which is there but I think as occupying definitely a second place in the concerns of the story. At the same time, there is a well managed increase in the level of suspense until the main action scene is complete, followed by a denouement where Murderbot does something both unexpected and in character which motivates the other stories in the series.

There is violent action in the story, but the graphic nature is blunted by the viewpoint of a SecBot who is accustomed to being repaired from a point of non-functionality over and over again. It understands that the humans it has been charged with to protect do not have this capability, and so logically places itself forward at the point of greatest peril on more than one occasion. It is interesting to see the the way human team interprets this as loyalty, altruism, and maybe courage even though Murderbot does not think any of those terms truly apply.

I like concentrated stories in the novella format which provides enough room to explore a number of different aspects to a character while still paying attention to a narrative drive much faster than a full-length novel. Not every novella-length story I have read can do that, but it is clear that well-versed in craft from her years producing well-regarded science fiction and fantasy.