Books : reviews

Dennis E. Taylor.
We Are Legion (We Are Bob).
Worldbuilders Press. 2016

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 11 October 2022

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.

Bob Johansson paid to have his head frozen when he died, so is not too surprised to wake up in what looks like a hospital having been revived. But he is surprised to discover that he is no longer flesh, but uploaded into a computer, and that he is not considered human, but property of a theocratic state. If he can’t learn the task they need him to perform, he’ll simply be switched off. Fortunately, Bob is a bit of a geek, and the task suits him perfectly. He just needs to find a way to free himself from his captivity. The task, plus his programming skills, offer him the opportunity. Soon he finds himself in command of a starship, able to make copies of himself, and explore the galaxy. Unfortunately, he is not alone.

This is fun, as we learn along with Bob what the brave new world is like, and as we go with him to explore strange new worlds. The copying isn’t perfect, so the new Bobs slowly diverge. And the galaxy they explore is a fascinating, dangerous place.

Dennis E. Taylor.
For We Are Many.
Worldbuilders Press. 2017

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 5 August 2023

Bob Johansson didn’t believe in an afterlife, so waking up after being killed in a car accident was a shock. To add to the surprise, he is now a sentient computer and the controlling intelligence for a Von Neumann probe.

Bob and his copies have been spreading out from Earth for 40 years now, looking for habitable planets. But that’s the only part of the plan that’s still in one piece. A system-wide war has killed off 99.9% of the human race, nuclear winter is slowly making the Earth uninhabitable, a radical group wants to finish the job on the remnants of humanity, the Brazilian space probes are still out there, still trying to blow up the competition, and the Bobs have discovered a spacefaring species that sees all other life as food.

Bob left Earth anticipating a life of exploration and blissful solitude. Instead he’s become a sky god to a primitive native species, the only hope for getting humanity to a new home, and possibly the only thing that can prevent every living thing in the local sphere from ending up as dinner.

More fun as the Bobs continue to diverge, explore the local galaxy, and attempt to save the remaining few humans on a dying Earth by finding colonies for them. Not all humans are happy with this help. Also, more alien races are discovered, some in the direct path of the genocidal eaters. In attempting to save them, the Bobs may have hastened Earth’s demise.

Dennis E. Taylor.
All These Worlds.
Worldbuilders Press. 2017

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 14 August 2023

Being a sentient spaceship really should be more fun. But after spreading out through space for almost a century, Bob and his clones just can't stay out of trouble.

They've created enough colonies so humanity shouldn't go extinct. But political squabbles have a bad habit of dying hard, and the Brazilian probes are still trying to take out the competition. And the Bobs have picked a fight with an older, more powerful species with a large appetite and a short temper.

Still stinging from getting their collective butts kicked in their first encounter with the Others, the Bobs now face the prospect of a decisive final battle to defend Earth and its colonies. But the Bobs are less disciplined than a herd of cats, and some of the younger copies are more concerned with their own local problems than defeating the Others.

Yet salvation may come from an unlikely source. A couple of eighth-generation Bobs have found something out in deep space. All it will take to save the Earth and perhaps all of humanity is for them to get it to Sol – unless the Others arrive first.

Fun and genocide as the Bobs continue to explore, colonise, and save the Earth. There are lots of parallel threads, but they do tie together. I'm not sure that genocide as a solution strategy is entirely justified, but the Bobs are.

Dennis E. Taylor.
Heaven's River.
Ethan Ellenberg. 2020

Civil war looms in the Bobiverse in this brand-new, epic-length adventure

More than a hundred years ago, Bender set out for the stars and was never heard from again. There has been no trace of him despite numerous searches by his clone-mates. Now Bob is determined to organize an expedition to learn Bender’s fate—whatever the cost.

But nothing is ever simple in the Bobiverse. Bob’s descendants are out to the 24th generation now, and replicative drift has produced individuals who can barely be considered Bobs anymore. Some of them oppose Bob’s plan; others have plans of their own. The out-of-control moots are the least of the Bobiverse’s problems.

Undaunted, Bob and his allies follow Bender’s trail. But what they discover out in deep space is so unexpected and so complex that it could either save the universe—or pose an existential threat the likes of which the Bobiverse has never faced.