All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Title: All Systems Red
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #1
Author(s): Martha Wells
Publisher: Doherty Associates
Format: Paperback
Release Date: May 2nd 2017
Pages: 149
Genre(s): Science Fiction
ISBN13: 9780765397539
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆


Winner of the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novella, All Systems Red is one of those books that was impossible to ignore with its buzz being almost omnipresent since its release. The praise it was getting was unquestionable and its blurb alone had me hooked and utterly curious to find out what all the fuzz was about. Dying to try novellas again, this series seemed like the perfect re-entry point for me. I mean, how could anything go wrong with an android called a “Murderbot” being the main character? In the end, there’s no denying that this turned out to be addictive and engaging. The journey of this Murderbot is one that develops steadily with a satisfying balance between action and humour.

What exactly is All Systems Red about though? This is the story of a SecUnit tasked to protect a team of scientists on their expedition in dangerous fields. Unlike other androids, this one however hacked its governor module (the very component that allows humans to control them) and successfully got its hands on what we would call “free will”. Instead of turning rampant or escaping its faith as a SecUnit, this android has assigned itself the purpose of protecting its clients at all cost. Remaining inconspicuous among the team is however a struggle, but whenever it can, it will find ways to avoid contact and find peace in isolation. It’s when things go awry with another crew of scientists that this android and its clients find themselves looking for answers, but also pernicious trouble, with unknown danger staring right back at them.


For a first installment in The Murderbot Diaries series, All Systems Red does a comprehensive portrayal of artificial intelligence in ways that have rarely been conducted in the past. Instead of having a robot who wants to become human, we find ourselves in front of one that is human. Its personality is incredibly relatable and far more human than some of us could ever be, but this Murderbot only wishes to be left alone in its introverted lifestyle. Stuck trying to hide its true self from a crew of scientists who would never truly understand it, it finds satisfaction in accomplishing its role as a Company-supplied security android in order to stay away from any potential trouble that the knowledge of its free will would have upon it.

Interestingly enough, this Murderbot is never referred to as a male or a female throughout the story. While I saw it as a woman all along, I was far too often able to connect myself to its most deepest desires (i.e. being left alone to enjoy some space soap opera). Martha Wells’ writing style also proves to be impeccable in All Systems Red and effortlessly manages to give this android a voice of its own. Without the focus on its gender, she was able to bring the reader to explore subtler details that helped further accentuate the android’s peculiar situation in a world of humans that only sees things from their own selfish position.

All Systems Red is a fascinating novella that follows an introverted android in its quest to embrace its true-self while trying to respect its purposes as a Murderbot. What it will come to realize will however force it to embark on an adventure that it might not ever be ready for, as both its purpose and its rights as an android with free will are tested.



Thank you to Raincoast Books and Doherty Associates for sending me a copy for review!



57 thoughts on “All Systems Red by Martha Wells

  1. As always, a wonderful review! I’ve only heard great things about the Murderbot series. That said, I am trying desperately to wait to read them. My book club has this slated for late 2018. November, actually. It feels so far away! Will you continue the series?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Jackie! Oh snap, that’s some wait you’ll be doing! 😉 At least by then I believe all four books in the series will be out! 😀 I’ll definitely be finishing this series too. I got the next book queued to be read somewhere this month. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My computer is genderless too. I’m thinking of naming it Betty though 😉

    On a serious note, do you some of the next novella’s on hand or do you have to wait for them? I want to see how the whole series turns out before diving in, so that I don’t get burned…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hahaahha your computer however doesn’t talk to you, if I stand correct. Most AI-integrated devices nowadays have a female voice too though (and probably an option to swap to a male voice, but I never looked into it). Just look at Siri. No way is that a guy. And Betty? Sounds like a female name to me. 😉

      I do have the sequel and plan on reading it pretty soon. The third book should come out somewhere in August as well, while the final (I think) book will be out in October. Not all novellas out there are intriguing, and since they’re quick to read, I definitely plan on completing this series at least.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If my computer talked back to me, I’d name him George and beat him. The nerve of that George! 😉

        I’m waiting until they’re all out and then I’ll go through them. I really don’t like that they’re called novellas and yet being sold at full novel price. I’m not even sure my library can deal with that. I guess I’ll be finding out :-/

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yep. The pricing on this little fellas are insane. I’ve noticed it too on some shorter full novels and some trade paperbacks/graphic novels. And that’s from a Canadian point of view. I usually end up envying the US price tags… LOL Says a lot about our economy huh 🤣

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review Lashaan, and this sounds like a really interesting book. The last book I picked up had robots in, and I’ve read a few books featuring AI characters before, but I haven’t read one where the robot character in questions is essentially human. It makes for an interesting concept for sure, and it seems like for such a short book it was well explored too. 🙂
    Again great review. 🙂 ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Beth! Yep, same here. I like the slightly different angle to it and how it was done in this novella. AI-characters are truly fascinating because of how they are created by humans and learn from them to become extreme versions of them, but when you got an AI that actually wants to stay who it is and sounds so human, it makes for an interesting character development! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds like such a cute read. I don’t usually pick up novellas because I find them to be underdeveloped, but despite the broad subject matter this one doesn’t sound like it suffered from that at all. Impressive writing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s definitely a big worry for myself regarding novellas. But because I know that novellas can deliver some messages much more clearly and quickly, I find myself intrigued and desiring to give them more a shot nowadays. I’m glad that this one was a nice way for me rekindle the format as it delivers everything quite wonderfully.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review as always sir! Got to admit I haven’t heard of this and that just shows how out of touch I am with the prose world these days (the comics universe demanding so much of my time, but enjoyably so) – I love a good dose of SF and the themes for this sound very interesting, much like Asimov’s ‘I, Robot’. I may eventually check this out but if it’s the start of a series that makes me a touch hesitant as I may not be able to keep up with it, I often find standalone novels and collections of shorts more ideal so I can sample a wider variety of authors and concepts.

    If only I could freeze time…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Chris. Time can be quite the obstacle huh? At least it’s good to know that there’s no shortage of both prose or comics for us, and there’s always great new titles/series to check out. This series is actually 4 books long with only the first 2 having been released already (don’t know if it’ll ever expand further than 4 books though).


  6. This! I need this! Awesome review!
    I also thought it’s a female android… on the cover it kinda looked like Tali Zora from mass effect, so i guess that’s why…

    P.S. i might be a murderbot. Space soap opera and being left alone sounds awesome 😂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much Norrie! Hahahahah no lies, that’s so true. I was pretty convinced that it was chick. Maybe it’ll claim a gender in the next book. 😮

      I’m telling ya! I feel like we might all be murderbots. Just got to figure out how to unlock that hidden weapon that comes with our system. 🤔

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s so funny that you thought of the murderbot as a woman! When I read it, I got the impression it was a man! You would think we would have likened it to our own sex to relate to it more (well, as much as you can relate to a murderbot addicted to Earth t.v shows!), so I find it very interesting that we both went opposite!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hahahaha I really don’t know why we thought of the opposite sex while reading it. Maybe there are things that it does that instantly made us think that it couldn’t be anything but a man/woman? Then again, this introverted TV show addict is definitely one that I could relate too hahaha 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting that the protagonist’s gender is not made clear. Sign of the times. You’ve probably read about a handful of parents not attributing a gender to their children. They want the child to decide which gender one wants to identify with. The focus is on the children being able to explore and expand their horizon without the limitation of the confines of what is expected of being a girl or boy. The writer of All Systems Red might have the same idea.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely agree. I do feel like the author has a pro-genderless point of view. In book 2, she even goes further with the idea (review to come). It’s interesting how much emphasis she puts on the Murderbots’ lack of desire for anything related to sexuality. A sign of the times indeed.


  9. I already had this one on my TBR. I have been getting hooked on novellas lately, I am really enjoying the Binti series right now. It got me looking into more TOR published novellas. Great review, now I am really glad I added it to my list.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m loving Tor’s novellas. They definitely have me craving for more. I’ll be checking out that Binti trilogy soon too. Hope you enjoy this Murderbot when you get around to it. I’ll be reviewing the sequel really soon too. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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