RogerBW's Blog

All Systems Red, Martha Wells 23 January 2018

2017 science fiction novella. Murderbot is an AI running a light-duty security robot, trying to keep the humans of a planetary survey expedition alive, though it would much rather spend its time catching up on episodes of Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon. Unfortunately its job is going to get rather harder.

I've read some of Wells's fantasy (particularly her early The Element of Fire, which I loved), but I think this is her first venture into non-franchise SF. And it works, rather well; light worldbuilding can be excused, because Murderbot really doesn't care about details that aren't related to its job or its hobbies.

I ran my field camera back a little and saw I had gotten stabbed with a tooth, or maybe a cilia. Did I mean a cilia or was that something else? They don't give murderbots decent education modules on anything except murdering, and even those are the cheap versions.

There are planetary survey expeditions, and one of the conditions is that the surveyors rent a security robot. But the initial report doesn't seem to have mentioned the burrowing megafauna, and then the other expedition goes ominously quiet.

It's mostly pretty light stuff, with some digs into deeper issues of AI consciousness and legal status (yes, all right, this book is aimed pretty squarely at me). Murderbot is suitably sarcastic and would fit well into a Transhuman Space game, at least the way I tend to run it.

I heard her telling the others to get off my feed and my comm, that she was going to be the only one speaking to me so I wasn't distracted. [She] underestimated my ability to ignore humans but I appreciated the thought.

It's slight, and has an ending that is clearly setup for the next episode, but it's good stuff and I look forward to more. To be followed by Artificial Condition.

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  1. Posted by John Dallman at 10:34am on 23 January 2018

    Yup, that is pretty good.

  2. Posted by Chris Suslowicz at 11:38pm on 26 January 2018

    Someone described Murderbot as "a somewhat grouchy Breq" which is an apt description. I enjoyed the hell out of this book, have the sequels on order, and am thinking about getting some of her earlier work.

    Thoroughly recommended: we need more Murderbot.

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