We Are Legion (We Are Bob), by Dennis Taylor, is the simple tale of a man. A man who gets hit by a car and wakes up as a synthetic consciousness around a century after his initial life (and death). I’m sure you’ll be surprised to hear that Bob is the man that the story is about, and it’s really important that you like Bob, because Bob turns out to be almost all of the characters in the book. You see, he’s been woken up as a digitized version of himself so that he can get strapped into a self-replicating space probe and go explore the galaxy. Super simple stuff, and that’s the kind of super simple stuff we’re going to be talking about today.
I really enjoyed the premise of We Are Legion, and I think that the freshness of the basic concept is one of the major highlights of the book. Being able to follow along as a man and his alter egos (we’ll get into that shortly) explore all the wonders of the galaxy? Sign me right up. The descriptions of interesting solar systems are pretty standard fare for the genre, but very rarely have I gotten to read from the perspective of the very first “person” to see them. In addition to the enjoyable galactic voyager angle, Bob is established to be a remarkably talented software programmer in a forgettable intro to his life, and as he essentially is a self-replicating piece of absurdly advanced technology, he is able to replicate himself as he sees fit. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of him designing and creating new tech and updating his selves and systems.
Alter egos? Selves? Bobiverse? You can probably infer from the tagline of the book “We Are Bob” that there’s going to be something going on with group consciousness, and you would be mostly correct in doing so. Each time Bob replicates himself, the new probe that comes out is just a little different than the previous one. They each take on a new name, as they are “not Bob”, and have their own interests and tastes. There’s some major pros and cons to this narrative choice. In the positives, you don’t have to spend a lot of time getting your readers emotionally invested in new characters when they’re 95% clones of the only POV character in the book. The various Bobs, while different, are still mostly Bob. This leads to the negative, if you don’t like Bob, you’re probably not going to like any of the Bobs. Bob comes across, to me, as the depiction of a Silicon Valley Bro in their ghostwritten memoirs. He is portrayed as incredibly intelligent, a very fast learner, and kind to some extent. The problem is that he always seems to have an air of condescending smugness, and one of the major plotlines with Main Bob later in the book didn’t do many favors there for me.
That touches on my last major critique of the book. Due to the fact that the Bobs are exploring the galaxy, the various plotlines are mostly self-contained with occasionally delayed contact with other Bobs. When done right this gives the opportunity to see a wide variety of unique stories and plots. Unfortunately, the plotlines that we linger on and revisit in the book tended not to be the plotlines that I cared about. I feel that a different reader may be the polar opposite to me and absolutely love the book because of that, but I kept feeling like we were spending too much time with the wrong Bobs.
We Are Legion (We Are Bob) is a unique and fun read. Despite the issues I had with it, I read the entire book in a single day as I needed to know what was happening next, and did thoroughly enjoy the experience. I could see this being a lot of people’s favorite book.
Rating: We Are Legion (We Are Bob) – 7.0/10