Some Quick Reviews: All Systems Red, The Thursday Murder Club, All Creatures Great and Small

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)All Systems Red by Martha Wells

I’ve been hearing a lot about the Murderbot Diaries from people I trust within the literary community, so I decided it might be finally time to get the series a try.

Murderbot is a half-human/half-cyborg creation that has hacked its own software to give itself freewill. Murderbot turns around and uses that free will to begin binge-watching daytime television. Quite frankly, Murderbot would rather watch TV than help the human survey team explore the planet they’ve been assigned.

Turns out that in the future, the government still goes with the lowest bidder and may not always be upfront about the dangers involved. So, the human team is facing some unusual dangers out there.

The premise of a killing machine gone rogue to binge-watch TV seems uncannily relevant as we continue to face the pandemic. Murderbot’s snarky sense of humor and first-person narration are well done. The novella suffers a bit when it comes to giving us a fully realized crew — there are only about two crew members who get any character development. And the novella is just long enough so the fun doesn’t wear off.

I’m intrigued enough to want to read the second installment and see what happens next.

The Thursday Murder ClubThe Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

As I read The Thursday Murder Club, I kept thinking that Richard Osman must be a long-lost relative of Dave Barry or Carl Hiassen. And that’s both good and bad.

Four senior citizens at an upscale retirement community form a mystery-solving group, little knowing an actual murder mystery will soon drop into their laps. With lots of time to investigate things and bug the local constabulary, they soon become embroiled in a plot involving land acquisition, property values, and building an addition to their retirement community.

The mystery aspect of this plot hangs together well enough. But it’s the characters that make the novel what it is. The four seniors are fun, though some more than others. The mystery aspect works well enough but it’s not necessarily the most entertaining portion of this novel.

All Creatures Great and Small  (All Creatures Great and Small, #1)All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

My parents gave me a copy of All Creatures Great and Small for my eighth-grade graduation. I spent the summer before going into high school with James Herriot, exploring the world of the Yorkshire Dales.

As a fan of Doctor Who, my main interest in the BBC series based on the book was that it gave us Peter Davison as the Doctor.

Now, the series is being rebooted for the small screen and I decided it was time to visit Herriot’s world again.

What strikes me about this book now — as it did then — is the warmth and humor there. Herriot reports on the various characters he meets — from veterinary practice owner Sigfried and his brother Tristan to the various farmers who have an idea on animal care that they’re always willing and eager to share — and find the humor in their stories without necessarily being condescending or putting them in a negative light. You can tell that he loves these people — and that he recognizes that he’s got just as many faults and foibles as the rest. The story of Herriot pursuing his love interest, Helen, just underscores this.

In many ways, this could be considered a collection of short stories though Herriot does build upon some things like the stories of Trikie Woo, the world’s most spoiled dog, and the never-ending sibling rivalry of Sigried and Tristan.

And yet, somehow, these stories seem as fresh today as they did three decades ago when I first read them. In a world where it feels like we’re too quick to disagree on what makes us all different, Herriot’s stories remind us of the things that bring us together.

There’s a reason this is one of my favorite books. And visiting it again just reminded me of why.

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