All Systems Red – Martha Wells

This is a science fiction story about a robot/android who hacks his way into sentient independence, but doesn’t reveal this to his human owners. Murderbot – as he calls himself – is a SecUnit, deployed as a security guard with a team of scientists working on a planet to see what is there and what might be the best way of developing it. There is another team working on a different part of the planet with their own SecUnits.

This is a universe of mega corporations, where everything must be approved and supplied by corporate masters. And, since contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, quality and safety are not high on the list of priorities. Meantime, Murderbot secretly watches soap operas, hoping the humans will leave him alone so he can work out what exactly he is.

Our hero has a bit of a black mark in his employment record: he slaughtered a team of miners he was working for. His memory of that is incomplete, but it lingers at the edge of his consciousness as he interacts with his current team members. Do they know? What do they think, if they do?

Events take a turn for the worse, and Murderbot becomes the only thing standing between the scientists and their demise. The action that follows is a mix of shoot-em-up and clever maneuvering, with a fairly relentless cranking up of the tension.

This novella is good fun, and it led to me looking for more of the same. I have refrained from buying any others because, although all of novella length, they are priced the same as full length novels, and there is that creeping sensation of ripoff. I’ll maintain a watching brief.

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