Alex Award Winner ALL SYSTEMS RED: A Charming New Murderbot

Lynn: All of you that work in the youth-book world will understand when I tell you that the number of adult books on my personal to-read list is in the hundreds. Yup—SO many enticing “grown-up” books and NO time to read them. Still, I keep putting them on my list. This year, a series opener called my name: All Systems Red (2017), by Martha Wells. It was, therefore, a total delight when, while in the audience at the Youth Media Awards presentation in Denver, I saw this same book All Systems Red by Martha Wellsselected as a 2018 Alex Award winner! No need to feel guilty now!

Wells had me from the first paragraph. “As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure,” it closes.

The AI narrator, who calls itself Murderbot because of a dark event in its past, does security-duty for a small group of researchers on a distant world as an employee of the Company. When the story opens, Murderbot is bored and wishing its human charges would finish up so it can get back to the Habitat and secretly watch episode 397 of Sanctuary Moon, its favorite show. Alas, it’s not to be: the situation on the planet goes south and rapidly, and the humans in Murderbot’s charge face terrible danger.

Murderbot reveals early that it has “hacked its governor module.” Now, unbeknownst to all the humans around it, Murderbot can make its own decisions. It has also discovered the entertainment channels on the Company feed and has logged 35,000 hours consuming books, movies, plays, music and serials. This binge-watching bot is impossible not to like!

The first of four, this addictive little book is only 149 pages long and a perfect treat to read. Wells’ smoothly written novella uses skillful understatement to create characters that are rich, nuanced, and deeply appealing. The adventure is exciting and the humor is wonderful. Murderbot’s voice is the star of this show and I can’t wait to enjoy its next adventures.

Hand this captivating little book to teens burdened with mountains of homework and required reading who yearn for something totally entertaining. Be prepared for instant demands for volume two.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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