A Trek Through the Bobiverse: A Review of We Are Legion (We Are Bob)

We Are Legion (We Are Bob)  (2016)
Written by: Dennis E. Taylor
Narrated by: Ray Porter
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 9h 31m (Audiobook)
Series: Bobiverse Book One
Publisher: Audible Studios

Why I Chose It: A YouTube channel my husband watches (Corridor Digital) suggested this title. I don’t really watch their content except when Josh has it on nearby, but I perked up when I heard them discuss We Are Legion (We Are Bob). It certainly sounded like it was worth the time.

The premise:

Bob Johansson has just sold his software company and is looking forward to a life of leisure. There are places to go, books to read, and movies to watch. So it’s a little unfair when he gets himself killed crossing the street.

Bob wakes up a century later to find that corpsicles have been declared to be without rights, and he is now the property of the state. He has been uploaded into computer hardware and is slated to be the controlling AI in an interstellar probe looking for habitable planets. The stakes are high: no less than the first claim to entire worlds. If he declines the honor, he’ll be switched off, and they’ll try again with someone else. If he accepts, he becomes a prime target. There are at least three other countries trying to get their own probes launched first, and they play dirty.

The safest place for Bob is in space, heading away from Earth at top speed. Or so he thinks. Because the universe is full of nasties, and trespassers make them mad — very mad.

Spoiler Free!

Discussion: My very first impression was that this is a mash up of Andy Weir’s The Martian and Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Sang. A compliment as both are some of my favorites in the genre.

This is science fiction at its best: intriguing, yet sound scientific principles embedded in plenty of humor and human emotion. This book has everything, whether you’re looking for hard science fiction with cool, fact-based tech or a humanist’s look at what the future holds.

I’m not going to pretend to be a physicist. A lot of the technology went over my head, but even I know about the newest research hypothesizing on the scarcity of habitable planets and the requirements thereof. I’ve also spent some time in a VR environment, so even Bob’s world — the one he starts with and the one he eventually creates for himself — was entirely relatable. Space ships are always cool, but some of the added constraints of Bob’s situation and the technology he had to work with gave it a unique flare. And exploring the galaxy is right up my alley. Above and beyond believably, this book has inspired me to go out and read some nonfiction.

Playing opposite all the tech are those deep philosophical questions one seems to expect in good science fiction, all propped up by Bob’s pragmatic and scathing social commentary. Bob’s pointed views on the inevitable fate of humanity and his role in its survival frequently had me laughing first, then thinking really hard. I think Taylor is a genius to present this Lens of Bob with which to view the possible future. Through Bob we take a look at tricky questions like first contact and existentialism, not from the comfortable distance of the philosopher, but from the close and personal view of the individual. These questions and their answers were made unique by Bob’s reactions to them, colored by his history, his love of Star Trek, and his self-deprecating humor.

Really my only problem was that there were several things about the future presented that were very bleak. Accurate probably, but just for once I’d like to read some science fiction that portrays humanity as learning from its mistakes rather than compounding them. But I guess in that case I’d be complaining about the lack of conflict…

Luckily the depressing was offset by the many other redeeming qualities, like the thrill of exploration and the question of what makes us human. I think that last is something a lot of science fiction deals with, but I loved the framework Taylor puts the familiar in. Bob, as a disembodied computer, struggles to find and grasp the things that make him essentially human. I especially loved his desire and quest to actually grieve. And when he starts interacting with himself as separate entities, it not only presented some awesome and hilarious dialogue, it also took the question further to ask: what makes us individuals?

And lest I forget one more very important aspect that brought this book to life for me, I should mention that I listened to this one. I didn’t read it. Since I am not an auditory learner this usually means that I can miss nuances of detail, especially in science heavy explanations (why do I always end up listening to my sci-fi?). But in this case, that was more than made up for by Ray Porter’s performance. He was simply fantastic, giving Bob a voice as unignorable as it was unforgettable. And he perfectly captured Taylor’s wit and wisdom. If you’re going to pick this one up, I highly recommend the audiobook.

In Conclusion: I really loved this one, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the Bobiverse series. Taylor has left plenty more of the galaxy to explore, and I want a front row seat.

1 Comment

  • Lane Robins June 29, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    This does look good! I’m not much for bleak, but it sounds like it’s not an unbearable bleakness.

    Reply

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