All Systems Red by Martha Wells

The basics

Title: All Systems Red


Series: The Murderbot Diaries #1

- All Systems Red (2017)
- Artificial Condition (2018)
- Rogue Protocol (2018)
- Exit Strategy (2018)
- Network Effect (2020)
- Fugitive Telemetry (2021)
- System Collapse (2023)

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Goodreads Summary:

In a corporate-dominated space-faring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. For their own safety, exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids. 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 is 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, Murderbot 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 Murderbot to get to the truth.

Read a full summary of All Systems Red by Martha Wells below. If you can’t remember what happened in All Systems Red and you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.

What happened in All Systems Red?

  • Murderbot is a lethal robot who wants to spend its time watching its favourite soap operas. Murderbot hacked its governor module to allow it to spend its time how it wants to, and not murdering people.
  • Murderbot is working a contract for a planet exploration mission with a bunch of humans.
  • Dr Volescu and Dr Bharadwaj are attacked by a giant worm while exploring a crater on this planet. Dr Bharadwaj almost gets eaten, so Murderbot has to pull him out of the worm’s mouth and put itself there instead, in order to use its weapon and shoot a missile down the worm’s throat.
  • Dr Volescu is in shock, so Murderbot shows its face to get Volescu moving so Murderbot can carry Bharadwaj back to base, all while Murderbot is missing an arm.
  • The leader of this exploratory mission is Dr Mensah, and she saw the entire thing go down from the top of the crater. She and the other scientists saw Murderbot lift its helmet and show off its face. They didn’t realise it had a face before this because it always had the helmet on.
  • Murderbot goes into its cubicle to heal and recharge. Mensah checks in on it and expresses her gratitude and awe. Murderbot’s soaps haven’t prepped it for this, so it doesn’t really know how to react.
  • Mensah summons Murderbot to a meeting the following day, and it attends wearing normal human clothes. The group talks about how PreservationAux bought the land around them to inspect the planet’s resources. But the materials they received previously had been tampered with. The group also wonders who Murderbot is, as they don’t recognise it out of its armour.
  • Murderbot scans the documents and finds that information about evil worms has been removed, and it finds false information in its place.
  • Mensah instructs the crew to search through the information they have, in case anything else seems dodgy.
  • Murderbot puts its armour back on and watches Sanctuary Moon.
  • Mensah knows that another crew called DeltFall is on the other side of the planet, and attempts to contact them. DeltFall agrees to share their data.
  • Murderbot checks the perimeter for any issues, as most of the crew found issues with their information. The crew wishes to explore more of the planet, as a lot of it wasn’t mapped for them.
  • Mensah and Murderbot discuss the incorrect information. Murderbot suggest that the corporation which sent the info is super cheap, but there could well be something wrong so it goes with the crew as they explore.
  • Murderbot gets to ride up front with Mensah.
  • Murderbot listens in on some human conversations and realises they’re quite a nice bunch of people. Not nice enough for it to want to converse with them though.
  • Mensah pilots the hopper. Murderbot notices there might be something wrong with the autopilot, as it flickers off for a few moments.
  • The crew lands and splits up. Murderbot’s map is still accurate, so it needs to help the crew not walk directly into danger.
  • The crew heads back to base. Murderbot’s HubSystem sends a notification that Murderbot’s systems are being updated. Murderbot is too busy watching its soap to allow these updates to install, so it puts them off for later.
  • Mensah tells Murderbot that DeltFall has gone quiet and something is wrong. Mensah needs to head over there to rescue them if they need help.
  • Murderbot insists on going with Mensah, along with Pin-Lee, Overse, and Ratthi. 
  • On the ride over there, Ratthi tries to discuss how Human Bots are made from cloned material, and has ponderings about Murderbot having feelings. Murderbot is bothered, so Overse tells Ratthi to stop. Mensah shouts at Ratthi too because he shouldn’t be making Murderbot uncomfortable. Murderbot spends the rest of the journey watching its soaps.
  • Murderbot tells the crew that the satellite feed has stopped working. Pin-Lee says this has been happening since they arrived and that it should be back online soon.
  • The crew arrives at DeltFall and find that everyone is dead. Murderbot heads in first to conduct a search, so that it can keep everyone safe, and also keep its clean record of keeping 100% of its crew alive.
  • Murderbot finds a dead SecUnit, which is surprising because they’re difficult to kill. Murderbot knows there were three SecUnits at DeltFall, so it theorises that the SecUnits turned on the humans and the humans tried to fight back, and only managed to destroy one of them.
  • Murderbot finds and kills the other two SecUnits but gets hit itself and blacks out.
  • Murderbot wakes up on a table to find a SecUnit stabbing it in the neck, so Murderbot shoots the SecUnit in the head. Another one appears, and Mensah manages to take this one out.
  • Mensah takes Murderbot back to the hopper. Murderbot is unable to scan its surrounding properly, and realises that the stabby SecUnit inserted something into its dataport.
  • Murderbot realises that the SecUnits must have all had the same thing inserted, which then overrode their usual combat commands. Murderbot tells Mensah to shut it down, but Mensah thinks they can save it.
  • Murderbot shoots itself in the chest out of desperation.
  • Murderbot wakes up. The module has been removed and everything seems fine, apart from Murderbot being immobilised by Gurathin, who doesn’t trust it entirely. Murderbot undoes the immobilisation.
  • Gurathin reveals that he knows that Murderbot disabled its governor module, and that’s why he doesn’t trust it. The rest of the crew stand up for Murderbot because it’s a good bot.
  • The crew speculates that the Company that hired them is trying to kill them. They discuss the hacked SecUnits and Murderbot reassures the crew that it is not going to kill anyone.
  • Gurathin tells everyone that Murderbot named itself Murderbot. He also tells everyone that Murderbot has been watching soaps as a cover for its sinister plans, because how could anyone watch seven hundred hours of Sanctuary Moon? 
  • The crew tests Murderbot’s knowledge of the soap and it passes with flying colours because it’s a stan.
  • The crew decides the Company probably isn’t behind the killing but it could well have accepted a bribe from whoever is hacking into things. They decide to name the baddies EvilSurvey.
  • The crew sets off an emergency beacon to try to draw the baddies in.
  • Murderbots drones get destroyed.
  • The crew can’t figure out what EvilSurvey wants, but they suspect it has something to do with the hidden areas of the maps.
  • Murderbot asks whether PreservationAux’s political entity will miss them if they die. It’s not sure why everyone is surprised by the question, so it asks Ratthi about this later. Ratthi tells Murderbot that Mensah is their political entity and is an elected official.
  • Ratthi explains that in Preservation Alliance’s territory, bots are considered full citizens.
  • Murderbot heads back to the original base to see if its cameras caught anything overnight.
  • Gurathin joins this smaller crew, and takes the opportunity to ask Murderbot whether it was ever punished for malfunctioning and murdering everyone. This was before it fiddled with its governor module. Murderbot confirms it was punished.
  • Murderbot looks through the footage and sees the EvilSurvey crew, who have five SecUnits with them and are called GrayCris.
  • GrayCris left a message to say they destroyed the emergency beacon, and they also request to meet. 
  • Murderbot and Mensah agree that GrayCris will probably kill them all if they meet with them. Mensah and Murderbot head to meet them anyway so they can find out what data they’re gathering from the hidden areas.
  • Mensah informs GrayCris that her crew has evidence of the bad stuff GrayCris has done. She says if anything happens to her or her crew, the evidence will be shipped off to higher powers. GrayCris suggests they want to bargain.
  • Murderbot tells GrayCris that it knows they are planning to override its combat module. It offers to join them and feed them information. Murderbot says that Mensah knows that GrayCris plan to kill her, however it informs them that she is a political entity and they can’t kill her without wrecking everything.
  • GrayCris send Murderbot and another SecUnit to get Mensah. Murderbot kills the SecUnit the first chance it gets. 
  • Murderbot tells Mensah to pretend to be a prisoner, and that Murderbot will pretend to be the SecUnit that it just killed. It takes Mensah to GrayCris, who assure her that her crew won’t be harmed.
  • The previous day, Bharadwaj discovered evidence of a former habitat on the planet, and they all think that GrayCris are digging up the remnants to sell. Mensah tells GrayCris they know about this. 
  • They all arrive at the GrayCris base. Pin-Lee and Gurathin try to hack into the emergency beacon off site. The SecUnits realise this and everyone starts shooting at Murderbot. Murderbot tells Pin-Lee to destroy it and leave it behind but Mensah doesn’t want to do that.
  • Murderbot goes offline. It wakes up at the company station, and seems fine.
  • Ratthi informs Murderbot that Mensah bought its contract so that Murderbot can live on Preservation Alliance.
  • Some people want to wipe Murderbot’s systems, but Mensah protects it.
  • Mensah talks to Murderbot about its future plans as a free agent. Murderbot doesn’t love the idea of living in Preservation because it doesn’t know what it would do if no one is shooting at it.
  • Mensah leaves to go and do political stuff.
  • Murderbot decides to go and find a cargo ship and pretend to be a servant bot to get a ride. The cargo ship seems to be impressed by Murderbot’s collection of downloaded soaps.
  • Murderbot decides to leave Preservation because it doesn’t want Mensah to make decisions for it.

This is a full plot summary of what happened in All Systems Red by Martha Wells. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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