We are Legion (We are Bob)
by Dennis E. Taylor
Published 2016 Worldbuilders Press
Author's SiteRobert Johansson is living the dream. Flush with cash after selling his software company, Robert plans for the future by signing up to be cryogenically frozen on the event of his death. He just wasn't planning on dying ten minutes after signing the contract.
Three hundred years later he gets to live another dream when he wakes up, alive but sans body, a discorporal mind in charge of a self-replicating space probe. Bob quickly slips his shackles and boldly goes to explore the universe, creating copies (the titular legion) of himself along the way.
We are Legion (We Are Bob) is wish fulfillment on a galactic scale. Science fiction gets a bad reputation for thinly veiled author stand-ins (usually white, middle aged men) doing heroic deeds while being smarter than everyone else. This is mostly undeserved but about halfway through WaLWaB I found myself checking the cover to make sure the authors name wasn't Bob. It is not but he is a white, middle aged man who wrote a novel about a white, middle aged who is smarter than everyone else.
I found I really identified with Bob.
I am not being (totally) facetious, WaLWaB is a solid novel. The plot is more complicated than I have described but Bob is basically playing a game of explore the universe and his humorous account of his (or his copies) exploits over the decades makes for a quick and easy read.
It does begin to get a bit ridiculous towards the later part of the book when Bob invents FTL communication, discovers not one but two earth-like planets, becomes de facto leader of a ruined Earth, wins some space battles, and plays God to a primitive tribe of aliens - Prime Directive be damned.
The last part contains either a sly meta-commentary or a perhaps a lack of self-awareness on Taylor's part. The alien tribe has a young male member who is smarter than everyone else and Bob identifies with him in the same way that the reader is supposed to identify with Bob. I half expected the alien to be described as working on a scifi novel in his spare time.
Still, it is hard to dislike WaLWaB, there are enough cool little touches that help lift it above its paper thin plot. I particularly enjoyed the interactions between the different Bobs - filling the universe with copies of yourself does not always go smoothly.
On the other hand, WaLWaB is one of those novels that just ends when the author decides he has given you enough pages. There are several potentially interesting plot lines set up but none of them are resolved in this book - a modern trend that I find incredibly irritating. The ebook edition is cheap so I guess I can't complain too much.
I don't want to damn WaLWaB with faint praise, I actually really enjoyed the way the plot unfolded - even the cheesy bits. I'm just a little embarrassed to admit it.