Book review

We Are Legion (We Are Bob)

By Dennis E. Taylor

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I stumbled across this online, where it is referred to as the first Bobiverse book – so called because the main character, Bob Johansson, appears in it in many guises…

…And thus the plot is set. Robert J. is a successful software entrepreneur, who has just sold his software company for multiple millions as we meet him. He decides to spend some of his newly-gotten wealth on a contract that will, in the case of his death, see that his head is preserved, frozen in liquid nitrogen, until such time as it is possible to revive him. As is the way, we soon seen this eventuality arise: Bob is killed in a car accident, and his head is frozen.

When Bob wakes up, more than a hundred years later, he finds that he is now owned by the state, and he is conscripted into an organisation that wants to put him into an interstellar space probe as the controlling system. Not just any probe, but a Von Neumann probe – one that can replicate itself as it finds new stellar systems. Since the state that now owns him is a fundamentalist Christian derivative of the USA, and is on the brink of war with one or the other of the few other superpowers across the globe, this seems like a good option, versus remaining on Earth with a global war potentially about to kick off.

Thus the story is set: Bob launches off onto his adventures as a space ship, with the ability to “clone” himself (although his clones turn out to be more like fraternal twins that identical copies). Of course, things do not go smoothly: at least one of the other superpowers has also launched a probe like his, and they are considerably more aggressive than Bob.

This is a great setup for a very open ended plot, and the whole book is well thought through. The fact that Bob comes from the early 21st century (i.e., now) means that his cultural references are the same as those of the reader. The narration is largely in the first person, and Bob’s ironic-slash-sarcastic voice was nicely done. It’s a science geeky book, too, with puzzles to be worked out and solved using semi-realistic technologies. The overall tone in this reminded me of The Martian in many ways, and I enjoyed it very much. Overall the style was quite bare-bones, without a lot of description of the setting, but lots of science and nerdery, all of which worked very well with the voice of the narrator.

Four stars for me – great fun, and because it wasn’t pretending to be anything it wasn’t. I’ll read the others in due course, I think.

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