Book review of We Are Legion (We Are Bob), by Dennis E. Taylor
This review contains some minor spoilers.
This book first came to my attention because it was named Audible's best sci-fi book of 2016. Then I learned it was another indie author success story, in which the author, Dennis E. Taylor, couldn't get a traditional publishing deal, so he released it through his agent's publishing imprint. But when he published an audiobook version, it exploded in popularity. So I decided to check out the audiobook for myself.
The plot centers around a guy named Bob, the founder of a successful mid-size software company who is able to retire early after selling his company. Rather comically, however, Bob gets killed in a car accident shortly after he sells his company and before he can enjoy the fruits of all his hard work over the years. However, since he was a science nerd with some extra cash on hand, he paid a company to cryogenically preserve his body in the event of his death, in hopes that technology in the future would be able to bring him back to life.
The preservation succeeds, but not quite as he had intended. Bob is indeed brought back to life 117 years into the future, but as a computer simulation rather than a human. Despite his shock and disorientation at his newfound condition, Bob must quickly adjust to his situation and try to find ways to continue to preserve himself. This proves difficult in a world in which some nations and religions have become increasingly ideologically polarized and many nations now have nuclear weapons. The rest of the book details Bob's quest to survive the ticking time bomb that is Earth and to explore the galaxy.
The tone of the book is very similar to The Martian, equal parts erudite and snarky. It spends a lot of time mocking religion, as well as human beings in general. However, despite the irreverent sense of humor, this is very much a hard sci-fi book, with lots of conceptually interesting stuff like Von Neumann probes, artificial intelligence, the physics of space travel, and more. The author takes the time to explain the more technically challenging stuff for less-technical readers, which probably explains why the book has found as broad of an audience as it has.
I found my interest waning a bit toward the end because it got challenging to keep track of all the characters and what they were doing, but overall it was still a very fun read. The audiobook version was outstanding. Narrator Ray Porter captured the author's sarcastic tone perfectly. I have no doubt this is one of those cases where the audiobook was better than reading it on my own would have been.
We Are Legion (We Are Bob), by Dennis E. Taylor
Science fiction writer