Book Club Review: All Systems Red

allsystemsredTitle: All Systems Red
Author: Martha Wells
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tor
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Pages: 144
Format Read: ebook
Standalone or series: The Murderbot Diaries Book #1
Where I got the book: Amazon
Date finished reading: March 19, 2019

Goodreads Description: 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.

My Review: I love it when a book club meeting can help me appreciate a read much more than I had. All Systems Red was no exception. I went into this book club having not enjoyed this book as much as I had wanted to. The reason for my dislike may have stemmed from being a bit new to science fiction as a whole. It is not a genre I tend to read. I have probably only read a handful of science fiction in my entire life. This book irritated me, because there wasn’t enough description for my tastes; the plot was hurried at times; and the language just seemed a bit too simplistic. However, my fellow book club members helped me realize that there was actually a lot of depth to this book.

This is a unique story told from the perspective of Murderbot – a robotic machine with organic parts (human feelings). “Murderbot” was actually a name it gave himself, so just from that you get a glimpse of its personality and possible inner struggles. We discussed whether we had assigned Murderbot a gender during the book, if its actions or personality made us think of it as a female or a male, which can lead to an interesting discussion. Just discussing its personality as a whole can be enlightening. At the beginning of the story, the reader learns that Murderbot has hacked its own government module. By hacking its own system, Murderbot now has free will over itself and its feelings. As a reader, you witness its struggle with those feelings, as it tries to work for and with humans. Some of Murderbot’s actions can seem similar to actions of an autistic individual or someone who suffers from social anxiety. The reader can’t help but wonder if the author put some of her own feelings and thoughts into Murderbot.

Let me end this review by discussing the book’s simplicity. Even though that bothered me, to the rest of my fellow book clubbers, the book’s simplicity was a positive thing and is what makes it special. Martha Wells does not create this fantastical world that is hard to imagine, but a world that is easily imaginable – a world not that different from our own. In addition, there is a similarity to our own society at times, where money and wealth drives actions and creates conflict. It is not a stretch to be a part of this story that Martha Wells has created.

While my rating reflects my own lack of interest for All Systems Red, it did not bring down by too much the overall high rating that my book club gave it – many of which would highly recommend this book to others.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦

Book Club Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ¼

Book Club Review: The Coroner’s Lunch

532720Title: The Coroner’s Lunch
Author: Colin Cotterill
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Soho Press
Publication Date: December 1, 2004
Pages: 257
Format Read: Book
Standalone or series: Book #1 of the Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery series
Where I got the book: Book club leader
Date Finished Reading: January 15, 2019

Goodreads Description: Laos, 1978: Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old medical doctor, has been unwillingly appointed the national coroner of newly-socialist Laos. Though his lab is underfunded, his boss is incompetent, and his support staff is quirky to say the least, Siri’s sense of humor gets him through his often frustrating days.

When the body of the wife of a prominent politician comes through his morgue, Siri has reason to suspect the woman has been murdered. To get to the truth, Siri and his team face government secrets, spying neighbors, victim hauntings, Hmong shamans, botched romances, and other deadly dangers. Somehow, Siri must figure out a way to balance the will of the party and the will of the dead.

My Review: This book was picked by my book club leader. I had never heard of the title or the author, so was a bit skeptical when it was introduced. However, I couldn’t have been more pleased. This book had all the makings of a great mystery with a cast of likable, and at times humorous, characters; a thrilling mystery plot that kept you guessing to the end;  a descriptive setting with a glimpse into life and culture in Laos during the 1970s; and even a little bit of fantasy.

Dr. Siri is one of the most interesting main characters I’ve ever read in a mystery series. He is an aging doctor/coroner, who is not exactly crotchety but just feels that at his age he is too old to be subdued. He often states what he thinks and how he feels without care of punishment from the government. That right there makes him an intriguing character, but then he also shows such love and respect for his staff at the coroner’s office, Dr. Geung and Dtui, that you end up adoring the main character. A little random bit of the story is that the dead victims that he comes across on his coroner’s table talk to him through his dreams. As random as that may be, it somehow is imported into the story perfectly. All it does is add to the plot.

The author does a fantastic job describing the role of the government in the every day lives of the people in Laos and their feelings about the government and the quality of their lives, while still moving the plot along with quite a few intense action scenes. The author makes you feel a bit anxious for the safety of the main character in multiple scenes.

My only complaint, which is a very small complaint, is that the author incorporated a technique that drives me a bit nuts in mysteries, where the authors use a few pages at the end of the book to finish piecing together the mystery. In this case, I don’t think I would have had a problem with that if the author would have used Dr. Siri for this technique, but it was not told from his perspective, even though the rest of the novel was.

However, that is such a minor thing when this was such a spectacular and engaging read. For once, every one in the book club agreed. The best part, is that this is just the first book in a long series, so you don’t have to say goodbye and move on.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½