Review #160 // All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) – Martha Wells

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)

Far in the future, space exploration is dominated by the Company. To explore any new planets, teams of scientists must purchase packages through the Company. In a recent expedition, a team followed by a self-aware Security Unit becomes aware that the only fellow team on-planet has gone dark.

Why this book?: Sounded interesting and like it might get me out of my slump.

I started this book because I didn’t know what else to read, and I had heard good things about it. I didn’t really know what to expect, because the summary wasn’t very specific, but I knew that I was going into a hard sci-fi novel with a possibly unreliable narrator. For not expecting much, I was pretty impressed with what I got, although I do have to admit that I’m a bit. . . wary of some of the ways that Murderbot (yes, that is SecUnit’s name, or at least what it calls itself.)

The story was what really pulled me in, despite a confusing beginning. All Systems Red starts off with a bang, literally, and it was hard to follow at first. Action was happening but I didn’t know what, or how to describe what happened because it wasn’t described that well. As the story progresses, told from Murderbot’s point of view, you as a reader get a unique look at the situations from someone who honestly doesn’t really care. That was fun, and before you get tired of it, Well’s begins to develop Murderbot and it’s relationship with the humans (“my humans”) into something that is heartwarming. While the plot itself is what drew me in, and despite some parts being confusing, the story was ultimately cherry-topped with the dynamic characters and their contrasting relationships with Murderbot.

Now, my main problem with this story isn’t the fact that the writing wasn’t definitive, or that I got a lot of the characters confused because some were hardly touched on. My problem is actually Murderbot. Murderbot uses it/its pronouns (Murderbot itself uses them privately, so that’s what I’ll use) so as more and more information is doled out about what Murderbot actually is, and what it’s past actually was like, I got a little iffy. Of all of the characters, Murderbot is the only one that is presented as genderless. Wells even goes into the fact that Murderbot doesn’t have genitals . . . which was a little unnecessary? Like, thank you for letting me know but do I really have to know what someone’s genitals are to say “yea, they’re not male or female”. So, just the connotations with that made me step back after thinking about it for a while. Is Murderbot genderless because it doesn’t have genitals, and if so, what does that say about non-binary people? Why did the audience need to know what genitals Murderbot had — or didn’t have?

Also, the fact that Murderbot, a SecUnit, is literally a “mass murderer” (it’s own words), I just feel weird that, in the first book of this series, Murderbot is the only non-binary character. I was told that there will be a second enby character in the second novel, but with what I mentioned above I’m not sure if I want to see Martha Wells’s second attempt at an enby character. It makes me wonder if she’ll want to verify if the enby was AFAB and/or AMAB, and that’s just unnecessary and offensive.

Final Rating: ★★★½☆☆


I’m really conflicted on this book and the series. While I really loved the story and Murderbot as a character (and I related to it a lot), I was also really wary of the enby representation after sitting on this review for a while. I really struggled with this, because I read this book in a night and thought I would be gushing in this review. But instead I’m just really unsure.

Would I Recommend?

Unless you’re enby, don’t tell me how to read a character. I read Murderbot as an entertaining character that was ultimately ruined when the author tried to make it about genitals and mass murdering. I’m not sure if I’ll be personally continuing the series, but I’d be interested in seeing how she takes on this supposed second enby in the upcoming sequel.

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)

Additional Information:

Published: May 2nd, 2017


Page Count: 144

Genre: Science Fiction

Synopsis: via Goodreads

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

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