All Systems Red is somewhat in the same territory as The Last Good Man in that it’s more SF about AI, although in this case not really Mil-SF although we’re still in the world of corporate battling and intrigue and in a more far-future setting where we’re clearly on a new world.
The narrator, who calls itself Murderbot, is an asexual security bot (although purists might suggest it’s a cyborg as it has organic components, it’s not 100% clear from what we’re told and what we see), tasked with providing security to a survey team. However, it has hacked its own governor chip so it is doing it of its own free will. This may seem like a massive security issue, it certainly did to me, but there is an on-going theme of the company being cheapskates and cutting every corner it can, so I found I was willing to accept that they’d paid bottom dollar and got governor chips that the bots could hack.
There’s a fast, almost frantically, paced plot moving things along which includes some nice moments to fill in pertinent moments of Murderbot’s history without it feeling forced. There are also, to misquote Shakespeare, more things in heaven and earth, Murderbot, than are dreamt of in your philosophy and although All Systems Red is quite short we get to see a nice selection of them.
As hinted at above, a lot of the major plot moving elements centre around corporate espionage and greed. Combining that with a character that calls itself Murderbot and you could have a really bleak book. However, despite those trappings, this is also a book about what it means to be aware, alive, adult and responsible and while it doesn’t shy away from looking at the darker places it’s surprisingly positive.
I said in the first paragraph of my review for The Last Good Man I may or may not keep this up. I’m not going to review every book I read - a lot of the books I read are in the middle of series and I’m not going to go back and review them all, nor am I going to give context on books in the middle of a series, I’m probably only going to review books that I would generally recommend to others as well. So if you’re still reading… this is a book well worth a read in my opinion.
Although A isn’t in the Russo test, it really should be, and the central character is distinctly asexual and written as such. Oddly, because of that, it’s not clear this book technically passes the Bechdel test. There are female characters but so much of the interaction is with Murderbot, or in Murderbot’s thought processes I’m not sure we see the named female characters ever have a conversation.
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