All Systems Red by Martha Wells – Doherty Assoc. publishing 2017 – Take a standard old school sci-fi setting and add robots that have human components. If you remember the Asimov ‘rules’ about robots, you’ll be expecting something in the circuitry that prevents them from running amok and killing all the ‘lesser’ beings that cross their path. In this case it’s called a governor module. The hero of the story is a ‘self aware’ ‘droid with a checkered past who calls himself ‘Murderbot’. He was built on behalf of a company that controls space exploration and supply security ‘droids to exploration companies.
Unfortunately Murderbot was originally supplied with a faulty governor module and wiped out some humans. He was too expensive to scrap, so they replaced the governor module and sent him out to a remote planet with another group of mining explorers. But somehow Murderbot figured out how to circumvent the new governor module. Rather than chancing another reboot, thereby losing his new found identity or, worse, ending up on an actual scrap heap, he’s hiding his independent freedom from his current employers. Instead of mingling, he spends much time alone, having become addicted to downloading and watching soap operas in his spare time.
Murderbot takes his duties on the new planet seriously and takes a hell of a beating from a denizen of the local fauna, saving one of the human miners in the process. Fortunately, if a ‘droid is not too compromised, they can be brought back to a medicenter and the parts replaced.
The miners soon discover that all is not as it seems on the new planet and there’s a serious attempt by outside forces to mislead and then kill them all. Murderbot is tasked with negotiating through the murder and mayhem in order to save his employers from the menace that confronts them.
If this were fifty years ago, it’s possible that Ms. Wells would be writing novels with heroes on horses negotiating their way through the cacti and the purple sage. Sand on the desert floor or on distant worlds – they’re called ‘dusters’ for a reason.
TL:DR – A book that’s solidly in the ‘beach reading’ category – park your mind in the warm sand and enjoy it for what it is.