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review 2018-06-14 03:21
We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (audiobook) by Dennis E. Taylor, narrated by Ray Porter
We Are Legion (We Are Bob) - Dennis E. Taylor

Bob just sold his successful tech company and is massively rich. One of the first things he does with his newfound wealth is sign up to have his head cryogenically frozen upon his death. Not long after that, he's killed in an accident...and wakes up more than 100 years later as an AI. He is now property, and he's been selected as one of four candidates for the job of exploring and colonizing space for FAITH, the government that owns him. It's a good thing that Bob views this as his dream job. First, however, he has to beat the other three candidates, keep from going crazy like so many other AIs in the past, and avoid being destroyed by one of the many groups that don't want this project to succeed. Although Bob does make it into space, it's a rockier beginning than he expects.

I can't remember if I bought this on sale or if I used an Audible credit, but, either way, it was a waste. I only managed to finish it in a reasonable amount of time because of Ray Porter's excellent narration. He made the lengthy technical explanations slightly more bearable. His range of female voices seems to be pretty limited (I think this is the third audiobook he's narrated that I've listened to), but since none of the prominent characters were female and there were maybe only three female characters with speaking roles, that wasn't really an issue here.

I picked this up because I like books with prominent AI characters. Bob was technically an AI, even though he'd started off as a human. For me, the best part of the book was the period between when Bob woke up as an AI and when he was launched into space. I enjoyed reading about him adapting to his new life and skills, even as I rolled my eyes a bit at how easily everything came to him.

The first part of Bob's life in space, before he started replicating himself, was tolerable, but not great. I wasn't a fan of Bob's decision to build a VR environment for himself. Taylor's reasoning for it sounded okay (AI craziness is at least in part caused by sensory deprivation, because the human minds the AIs are built from expect sensory input they aren't getting), but I didn't want to read about some guy living in his magical environment that he could change at will. I vastly preferred it when Bob was housed in a very nonhuman body that was little more than a camera and some manipulators.

When Bob began populating his environment with animals, including a beloved cat from back when he'd still been human, I began to worry that he'd start recreating people he'd known and loved when he was alive. My biggest fear was that he'd recreate his ex-girlfriend. I was surprised and relieved that it never once crossed Bob's mind to do any of this.

After Bob found a stopping point and began replicating himself, the story branched a bit and should have become more interesting. Instead, it became more tedious and considerably less focused.

Each Bob renamed himself in an effort to make things less confusing, and the book followed multiple Bob POVs. I did my best to keep count, and by the end the total Bob count was 30 and the total number of Bobs who got to be POV characters was up to 9 or 10. This was one of the few aspects where I regretted the audiobook format a bit, since the different Bob POVs were briefly identified at the beginning of a section/chapter and were often difficult to tell apart if I missed hearing Porter say their names. Although each Bob viewed the other Bobs as having radically different personalities, the personality differences weren't as noticeable in the different POV sections.

One of the Bobs (Bill) opted to stay in one place and act as a Bob factory, tech researcher, and communication center. One set of Bobs headed back to Earth to see how things were going and whether there was even any point in looking for habitable planets anymore. Most of the other Bobs went in different directions and began exploring - some of what they found tied in with the storyline involving Earth, some of it led to action scenes involving an enemy AI, and some of it had nothing to do with anything as far as I could tell. Probably setup for the next book.

The discovery of the Deltans, intelligent but low-tech beings on one of the Bob-discovered planets, fit into the last category. Sadly, I found it to be more interesting than the primary storyline involving the fate of humanity, even as Bob's actions and plans made me more and more uncomfortable.

Bob (original Bob) discovered the Deltans and, at first, decided just to watch them. He gradually became more involved, to the point that he

considered culling one of the Deltans' natural enemies, the gorilloids, in order to make the Deltans' lives easier. Another Bob disapproved of this, although I got the impression that his disapproval was based more on his dislike of making the Deltans dependent on the Bobs and less on any qualms about genocide. Original Bob spent a lot of time studying the Deltans and almost no time studying the gorilloids. I wasn't as willing as he was to discount the possibility that the gorilloids were also sentient and sapient beings.

(spoiler show)


We Are Legion (We Are Bob)'s biggest problem was that it was boring. Taylor included a massive amount of technical detail, and I really just did not care. I say this as someone who largely enjoyed the scientific explanations and technical details in Andy Weir's The Martian.

It probably didn't help that I couldn't bring myself to care about the various Bobs and their storylines, either. The humans in Taylor's vision of the future were largely annoying and seemed determined to literally argue themselves to death. Rather than talk to each other, share knowledge and resources, and generally help each other out, they preferred to argue about who got to evacuate first and then refused to so much as share a planet. As for the Bobs, I never became very attached to any of them and

didn't even feel a twinge when any of them died. After all, the Bobs themselves barely mourned each other, and they could always just make new ones, even though the personalities wouldn't be the same.

(spoiler show)


Early on, Bob worried about losing his humanity and was reassured that he was still human when he regained his ability to grieve for the family members of his who'd long since died. Honestly, though, he should have continued to worry, because that moment of grief seemed to be his first and last deeply felt emotion in the entire book.

I don't currently plan on continuing this series. I'm not sure I could take another book filled with dozens of iterations of Bob, even with Ray Porter narrating it.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2018-06-08 00:20
Reading progress update: I've listened 570 out of 570 minutes.
We Are Legion (We Are Bob) - Dennis E. Taylor

I'M DONE! ::tears of relief and joy::

 

Final Bob count: 30

Final Bob List available here. I think it's pretty accurate, but Bob production reached ridiculous levels during an enemy AI hunting session near the end of the book, so I could have missed one or two.

 

There were three or four storylines, and only one of them was resolved in any way, the one about the fate of humanity. The enemy AI is still out there somewhere, there's a metal-eating, animal-destroying alien race that most of the Bobs don't know about, and one of the Bobs has become extremely invested in the fate of a low-tech population of aliens on a particular planet (and is considering wiping out a competing species, which makes me uncomfortable).

 

The only storyline I was really interested in was the one with the metal-eating aliens, and that didn't pop up until nearly the end of the book. That said, I have no intention of reading or listening to the next book. As it is, I resorted to increasing the narration speed to finish this one sooner, even though I loved Ray Porter's narration.

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text 2018-06-07 16:46
Reading progress update: I've listened 417 out of 570 minutes.
We Are Legion (We Are Bob) - Dennis E. Taylor

"I've been captured by the Jalapeno Empire and I'm being tortured for our secrets."

 

Bob (Linus?) has encountered a new and possibly crazy AI, which brings the total of unique AIs (as in "not some iteration of Bob") up to three: Bob, the Brazilian AI, and this Australian AI. Oh, maybe four, if the AI mentioned early on in the book still exists in some fashion.

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text 2018-06-05 23:55
Reading progress update: I've listened 332 out of 570 minutes.
We Are Legion (We Are Bob) - Dennis E. Taylor

I bought this because, yay, AIs, even if they were all based on human minds. But dang is this boring. I believe the Bob count is now up to 15. Some of the Bobs are in charge of churning out more Bobs, most of the other Bobs are off studying planets, and another set of Bobs has gone back to Earth and is attempting to help survivors. There have been two or three battles,

which the Bobs won, even though the original Bob was a programmer and the guys the Bobs were up against had actual military training.

(spoiler show)
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text 2018-06-04 17:38
Reading progress update: The Bob list
We Are Legion (We Are Bob) - Dennis E. Taylor

Okay, here's my weak attempt at trying to keep track of the Bobs. I'll just periodically update this post.

 

- Bob: The one who was originally sent out into space. All other Bobs originate from this Bob, one way or another. He opts to stay at the first location he stopped at, in order to become a Bob factory. Whoops, I got Bob confused with Bill. Bob goes off exploring.

 

- Riker: The Bob who decides to check up on Earth. His VR environment looks like the bridge of the Enterprise.

 

- Homer: A copy of Riker. He accompanies Riker back to Earth. Likes cartoons a lot.

 

- Garfield: Opts to stay with Bob.

 

- Milo: Yup, the Bob in my previous update was Milo, not Bill. He discovers two habitable planets and names one Vulcan and one Romulus, because the Star Trek and Star Wars references in this book just keep going.

 

- Bill: Of the initial batch of Bobs, he seems to be most like Original Bob. He opts to stay at the first location he stopped at, in order to become a Bob factory.

 

- Mario: Extremely antisocial.

 

- Calvin: Constantly at Goku's throat verbally poking at Goku, and yet shows no signs of wanting to be separated from him.

 

- Goku: Constantly at Calvin's throat verbally poking at Calvin, and yet shows no signs of wanting to be separated from him.

 

- Linus: Fine with going off on his own.

 

- Marvin: Replicated in order to serve as help for Bob after Bob finds a particularly interesting planet.

 

- Luke: More assistance for Bob.

 

- Bender: More assistance for Bob.

 

- Charles: Assistance for Riker.

 

- Arthur: Assistance for Riker. Gloomy and pessimistic.

 

- Bart: Replicated by either Goku or Calvin. His VR environment is a lot like a cabin his dad used to take him to for vacations when he was kid.

 

- Kahn: One of the Bobs created in order to avenge the death of one of the other Bobs.

 

- Hannibal: Part of Kahn's group.

 

- Jeeves: Also part of Kahn's group.

 

- Barney: Also part of Kahn's group.

 

- Tom: Also part of Kahn's group.

 

- Kyle: Also part of Kahn's group.

 

- Ned: Also part of Kahn's group.

 

- Fred: Also part of Kahn's group.

 

- Elmer: Also part of Kahn's group.

 

- Jackson: Also part of Kahn's group.

 

- Hector: Also part of Kahn's group.

 

- Howard: Accompanying a colony ship

 

- Bert: One of the colony ships.

 

- Ernie: One of the colony ships.

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