We Are Legion (We Are Bob)

ralphkern

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We are Legion (We are Bob)



Winner: Audible's Best of 2016 - Science Fiction

We know what assumptions make out of U and Me, and I must admit I made one based on the title of this book - that it was a spoof or slapstick comedy piece rather than what it is - An intelligent, entertaining, fun and important look at realistic space exploration. (I’ll touch on the important bit later in this review).

The premise starts in our time. Bob Johansson is a computer programmer who earns a lot of money selling his software company. As part of the resultant spending spree, he buys a slot as a corpsicle for when he dies – essentially to have his head cryogenically frozen in the hope of being revived in the future.

It was a sound investment for Bob. Following an accident, he wakes up 100 years later only he’s very different. He’s been transferred into a computer system and undergoes training to become the controlling intelligence for a Von Neumann Probe – A spaceship with the ability to self-replicate in a target star system – and so begins his mission as he’s sent into the heavens. Each time he clones himself, an imperfect copy is created (different character traits emerge in different ways, and the clones own experiences shape them too), which is a nice way of creating different characters and POVs for the reader.

Unfortunately for Bob, there are other Von Neumann probes, at least one of which is very hostile to him. So begins a frantic race to outbreed and outexplore each other. There are several other equally engaging plot arcs which develop or discovered throughout this book, but part of the fun is not knowing what Bob will encounter next as explores the nearby stars so I’m going to refrain from mentioning these.

Readers may wonder how they can identify with what amounts to a controlling computer on a spacecraft – and for that Mr Taylor does an awesome job. Bob (and his clones) is a witty, engaging character. He’s constantly bemused by life, and makes for a great guide through the Bobiverse. He creates for himself virtual reality environments, which help to ground the reader along with a lot of cultural references, which are fun.

In terms of the science and engineering in this book. It is particularly well done. It is grounded in hard SF, but also hidden under the hood. It is close to Andy Weir’s, The Martian, in terms of making hard SF accessible.

Now on to the ‘Important’ bit I mentioned in the opening paragraph. There are some SF books which are truly visionary and unique. The likes of 2001, I Robot, Contact and Tau Zero spring immediately to mind. They have often been emulated since they were published, but never surpassed. I would put this book in the same bracket as them.

The use of Von Neumann probes is a realistic, in fact likely, means in which humanity will explore the galaxy but there are very few books which have grappled with this type of exploration (and none where it is particularly the focus, unless the probes are some kind of antagonistic faction). Mr Taylor has done so masterfully. Giving the probes a human consciousness gives a reader something to hook into and engage with and even better that it is someone from our time. This makes for a really unique look at what the future could hold for humanity and space exploration.

Overall, this is a fantastic read, and Mr Taylor has become the peer with the likes of Clarke in terms of vision. I am Legion is one of my favourite reads this year.

I have already downloaded the second book.
 

Brian G Turner

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I've just finished this and it's fantastic. It's engaging, intelligent, funny - and very original. :)

The negative: the first 5 pages didn't really hook me, though I appreciate why they are there.

The positive: Plenty of humour, and an astonishing coverage of so many hard SF topics approached in a very accessible and entertaining manner.

Am already halfway through reading the sequel and enjoying that immensely, too. :)
 

Brian G Turner

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Just finished the sequel For We Are Many (bobiverse #2) and it compliments the first book perfectly. The plot lines left open continue to be developed, and there are a couple of real surprises.

There were a couple of minor elements that felt a little fantastical, but still remained fun - but there were also some more interesting emotional threads.

Truly this is a very ambitious series, handling big themes, and doing so not simply well, but in a fun way.

Really looking forward to the third book, which I think is scheduled to be out in June. So not long to wait. :)
 

Cat's Cradle

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I think I've read that book 3 is out in August (though I'd greatly prefer June!). Hopefully we'll get a clarification. ;)
 

Brian G Turner

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Cat's Cradle

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I loved both books. I found the overall concept fascinating, the world-building totally engaging, and the characterizations of the various Bob clones convincing, and distinctive. I was thrilled by the various storylines. I never wanted the books to end, and then I wanted there to be another book available right away (and it's very rewarding that the entire trilogy will be released within an 11-month period).

Yes-yes, I am gushing, but it just seems this is a series I've been waiting for; and one that I know I'll look back on fondly in the years ahead. I find the series to be remarkably entertaining.

So, August 8th, was it??:)
 

Brian G Turner

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No, I have it on my list and it will probably be in my next wave of purchases in probably three or four weeks (ie in five or six books time).
It'll be interesting to see what you think, because you tend to be more level-headed and less excitable than I sometimes get. :)

it just seems this is a series I've been waiting for
I've complained repeatedly in discussions here that not enough SF writers are taking on big concepts. Yet Taylor seems to be taking on pretty much all of them. Even better, he doesn't stop the story to explain conceptual stuff - he simply shows them as a natural part of the story.

There's some delicious irony in some of what he's doing. :)
 

Cat's Cradle

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The big concepts are handled so smoothly...especially once the story gets going, so seamlessly integrated into the storylines (IMO). I was impressed.

No book is for everyone, but this was exactly right for my tastes. Hope everyone who tries the series will enjoy it (seems a fairly safe bet to me).
 

Parson

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I've read and loved both books. :) Sometimes it's nice to know the author. --- Thanks Ralph!
 

dannymcg

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I agree with the first five pages or so but then I began getting pulled into the story and the Bobiverse. Gripping and enjoyable. I had to Google early in the book for TMZ but that's maybe my habitual zone-out at anything 'celeb' related!
 

Stable

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I downloaded/bought this in ebook form based on the recommendations in this thread. You guys weren't wrong, it was well worth the time and money. So thanks!

It feels very accessible, the physics is all there but I didn't have to put my geek trousers on to keep track of anything. Likewise, although there was action it was actually a very comfortable, relaxing read. (Which is great as I read most of it in the middle of the night with a half-asleep baby - I was trying to make him fully asleep, while he had the opposite intention.) I was sad it finished so soon, but there's abook 2 already and a book 3 coming soon? Happy days.

Did anyone recognise the sci-fi panelist who is quotes at the start of chapters or is he fictional?
 

Brian G Turner

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Did anyone recognise the sci-fi panelist who is quotes at the start of chapters or is he fictional?
I presumed it was a made-up character - to allow Taylor to voice some ideas about colonisation, while also self-referencing the story.
 

Stable

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I presumed it was a made-up character - to allow Taylor to voice some ideas about colonisation, while also self-referencing the story.
Yeah, I assumed that, but then I thought - he has so many references in there wouldn't it be fun if he used a real author's speech?
 

Ursa major

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I give fair warning to all those boosting this book (and series): I have paid good money to download book one to my Kindle, and I'm expecting it to be exceptionally good.

It better had be...!
 

Stable

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Well I just bought the second one, so THAT one had better be brilliant too. (Especially as it cost me a dollar more!)
 

tinkerdan

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I have purchased and read both books (the paperback editions) I was going out on a limb with that purchase based on the book one sample.
I was not disappointed.

Certainly they are many; however I might argue that they are not Bob.
I wasn't sure about that aspect, but having each Bob become something different and yet having throughout the story referential elements that were similar was quite entertaining and probably difficult to write.

However Dennis has great success there because it could have gotten confusing for a number of reason and yet it didn't and it may be despite of and possibly because of the multiple number of short chapters and how well they are crafted.

I fully expected to get lost at some point and of course I couldn't read it all in one night. (One night two books--that's my better half who might be able to do that.) So the small chapters were great, you could stop anywhere. However they were just short enough and each chapter's beginning and ending are crafted to make you turn the next page so it becomes--just a moment, next chapter, and I'll get ready for bed.

Yes there were some fantastical elements in both books, but the science and the various issues and what ifs were all pretty well crafted and didn't ever threaten to overwhelm the story itself which was basically how the character coped and evolved throughout the story.

Two thumbs up from all of us; we are many we are reader.

For anyone expecting something silly; you won't be disappointed, but you will get a huge bonus when you get hooked on this one.

 
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Ursa major

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Those of you who are concerned about your fate may like to know that it didn't take me long to put the book down...





...as it was a real page turner (and great fun and a lot of other good things). I saw a total of one typo (a 'was' missing its w).


I'll write something more coherent about it when I've returned to my normal operating mode. (This may or may not be before I start reading book two.)
 
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