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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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review 2018-06-13 03:28
Rise and Fall by Michael Whitehead
Legion Of The Undead: Rise and Fall - Michael Whitehead

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works mostly well as a stand alone.

I have returned to the land of Roman legions and zombies! I really loved the first book in the series and this is a decent follow up. My new favorite character is Garrick, a butcher who lives in Rome. He’s basically conscripted to guard the wall but he soon earns the respect of his centurion and fellow guards.

Vitus, the archer from Book 1, is still around but he’s not the sole main focus of the story. He does a great job of being the counterpoint to Garrick. Two Roman emperors are fighting for superiority. Titus is the rightful emperor but he doesn’t hold Rome. Indeed, he’s quite a distance away and there’s all those pesky zombies in the way. Meanwhile Otho holds Rome. However, he’s got these crazy secret zombie plans that could bring him to ruin.

This tale does have a weakness and that is the lack of ladies. Book 1 had some impressive female characters getting stuff done but this book totally sidelined Lucia and Flavia. We only get glimpses of them and when we do, they are there for comfort or romance. There is one woman who gets to smash some zombies but her role is brief and part of it is spent being rescued. Another woman gets her chance at Otho, but once again, she has a small, fleeting appearance.

The zombies themselves come in a few flavors. The newer, more robust ones can leap! Yikes! There also appears to be some evil paranormal force that drives them, having some hidden motive. I hope we learn more about that in Book 3. The pacing is really good, keeping me engaged the entire time but also avoiding zombie battle fatigue. 4/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Terry Self gave us yet another amazing performance. He had distinct voices for all the characters and his lady voices are feminine. I like his spooky voice for the evil paranormal entity. I also like his voice for Otho, who sounds like he’s talking with a mouth full of marbles. There were no technical issues with the recording. 5/5 stars.

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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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