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Revisiting 'All Systems Red' by Martha Wells: A Narrative Prelude

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Rating: 4/5 ⭐️

When I first read "All Systems Red" by Martha Wells, it struck me as a solid, albeit not overly impressive, science fiction novella. However, after reading the next three books in "The Murderbot Diaries" series, my perspective has shifted dramatically.

In "All Systems Red," we are introduced to Murderbot, a self-aware security droid who rather watch shows on entertainment feeds than have any human interaction. The story unfolds on a distant planet where Murderbot must protect a group of scientists from any threats, all the while grappling with its own burgeoning sense of identity.

Initially, it's easy to dismiss this tale as a simple adventure; however, the sequel books reveal that it's so much more. It’s the beginning of Murderbot's quest to understand its place in a universe teeming with human and non-human life, a thread that Wells expertly weaves through the series.

In hindsight, it's clear how the opening book subtly lays the groundwork for what's to come. The characters we meet, the socio-political nuances, and, crucially, Murderbot's internal development, all become more relevant as the series progresses. Each decision Murderbot makes in the first book reverberates throughout the following narratives, and each interaction adds layers to its complex character.

I reread a few chapters of this book to help me with this review and I had this realization that "All Systems Red" is much more than a standalone adventure. It's the first piece of a larger narrative puzzle. The subsequent novellas have been more interesting and the adventure that started in "All Systems Red" gets a satisfying conclusion in "Exit Strategy", leaving room for more adventures of Murderbot.

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