Wow, another pleasant surprise! Like Kings of the Wyld, I picked up a copy of Dennis Taylor’s We Are Legion (We Are Bob) without doing much in the way of research (it helps that it’s currently available as a free rental on the kindle store).
Here’s the pitch that got me to take a chance on it:
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.
The beginning of the book is a little rocky, but it also turns out to be a bit of a red herring. What Bob does on Earth isn’t actually all that interesting- it’s once he launches into orbit (and starts making copies of himself) that things get fun. Once you reach the meat of the book, you realize that it’s really more of an extended thought experiment about how someone might react when put into the odd (but not impossible?) situation in which Bob finds himself. If you could create more copies of yourself, would you? How many? What if they turned out to be very similar, but not identical to you? What if one of them insisted on calling itself “Homer,” primarily to get a rise out of you?
In tone, the book is quite similar to Andy Weir’s The Martian, insofar as it’s a mix of somewhat campy sci-fi humor and more technical “hard science” about what is going on during Bob’s travels. I will say that the book definitely is not high brow literature. The writing is by no means bad, but this is a book about plot, not prose (or character development, for that matter). I did cringe occasionally as Taylor inserted various pieces of sci-fi lore for color, but as in something like Ready Player One, it’s all done with a good humored wink and a nudge.
To sum it up, this is an entertaining speculative novel about space travel, cloning, artificial intelligence and the colonization of the stars, all with a significant dose of sci-fi camp thrown in for good measure. If that sounds like your thing, I highly recommend you give it a try! I’m on to book two…
Rating: 3 – Highly Recommended