Bob Johansson has just sold his software company and is looking forward to a life of leisure. There are places to go, books to read, and movies to watch. So it’s a little unfair when he gets himself killed crossing the street.
Bob wakes up a century later to find that corpsicles have been declared to be without rights, and he is now the property of the state. He has been uploaded into computer hardware and is slated to be the controlling AI in an interstellar probe looking for habitable planets. The stakes are high: no less than the first claim to entire worlds. If he declines the honor, he’ll be switched off, and they’ll try again with someone else. If he accepts, he becomes a prime target. There are at least three other countries trying to get their own probes launched first, and they play dirty.
The safest place for Bob is in space, heading away from Earth at top speed. Or so he thinks. Because the universe is full of nasties, and trespassers make them mad — very mad.
Have I mentioned lately how much I love the Bobiverse?
I’m shocked, I tell you. I thought I’d mentioned Dennis E Taylor’s stories at least once a week.
I’ve got all three of the Bobiverse books as audiobooks, but since I received my PIP back money a month ago I’ve been on something of a book buying spree. I regret nothing! And I finally got myself copies of the paperback editions of the Bobiverse Trilogy. This is the first one.
Bob Johansson, engineer and physics geek, sells his business and expects a comfortable life. It’s summer 2017, he’s in Las Vegas with his three former employees/shareholders enjoying the fruits of their labour in the form of shows and a sci-fi convention, and ludicrously expensive hotel suites.
And then he gets hit by an irate motorist, having had less than a month to enjoy his fortune.
He wakes up 117 years later to find he’s a computer programme, Bob-1, training to be the controlling intelligence of a Von Neumann probe, in a competition with five others, and the USA hasn’t existed for a century. In it’s place is FAITH, a theocracy run by the descendants of the evangelical nuts and Christian fundamentalists currently making the States a hostile place for anyone not a straight, white, middle or upper-class man.
Bob, obviously, wants the job, because anything is better than getting purged or used to control a rubbish lorry, so he sets to and plays nicely as long as he can. Fortunately, after a couple of Ministry of Truth visits and assaults from hostile forces, Bob’s the only one left anyway. And off he trots to Epsilon Eridani in HEAVEN-1, via Saturn. There’s a battle with a rival probe and only one planet that might be habitable, with some technology. He replicates and then gets the hell out of Dodge, er, Epsilon Eridani,
And that’s just the start of his adventure. Some clones go back to Earth to discover what happened to humanity, some stay in EE to work on physics and engineering projects and some go off to explore the galaxy. There are explode-y things too. The Bobs don’t like explode-y things. Also, I’m pretty certain original-Bob was an Autie. The hyperfocus, need for alone time, lack of social skills…
It’s all a big adventure, voiced by sarcastic, funny, irreverent characters, out in the universe exploring and meeting other sentient species. If you enjoyed the tone of The Martian I expect you’d enjoy this series too.
What do I like so much:
- the descriptions of the galaxy and planets the Bobs visit
- the authorial voice is slightly sarcastic and fun
- the characters of each Bob are similar but distinct
- the science and fiction meet each other in the middle
- the ridiculous FAITH dialect – Taylor has really put thought into how the language would evolve in a century
- The description of Bob in the digital library made me wish I was an immortal disembodied computer programme so that I could spend eternity learning and reading everything there is to learn
- Taylor has put a lot of thought in to potential scientific and engineering advances, and how the Von Neumann probe would operate. He builds a convincing world and strong characters to populate it.