This is what you get if John Scalzi were to write The Martian infused with Ready Player One, and I can’t believe this hasn’t been reviewed a dozen times for the Cannonball Read.
Now, let me be clear, I don’t think this book is quite as good as either The Martian or Ready Player One, but it’s got the same feel as those books. The protagonist, Bob, is a smartass, and very capable of solving problems with science – just like Mark Watney. But Taylor loves him some nerd culture, and peppers the book with references to Star Trek, The Simpsons, and virtually every science fiction universe known to Western audiences. This book is kind of a bridge between the hard science fiction of Andy Weird and the lighthearted adventure of other CBR favorites (like the aforementioned Scalzi).
Bob Johansson is a computer programmer who just sold his company. He’s now rich. And then he dies.
Don’t worry. I didn’t just spoil the book for you. He comes back! But not as he’d planned. He’s now a century in the future, and the world is vastly different from what he left behind. And he’s a computer. Specifically, an AI owned by the government. And he’s given a mission that will have far reaching implications for the survival of humanity.
This is a really good book, and I don’t want to get too deeply into the story. Everything I just described is, like, the first two or three chapters, so I’m not really giving too much away here. I wasn’t always sure where this book was going, because it seems to touch on a lot of different subjects, from religion, to our ancestral roots, to the difficulties of interstellar space travel, to questions of identity and consciousness…There’s a lot to parse out, here.
But, at the same time, it’s not a particularly dense plot. Much of the book, like The Martian seems to be built on the methodical solving of problems as they arise. So the book kind of feels directionless at times. But I was okay with the aimlessness, because I was utterly transfixed by the diffuse story threads. And, let me warn you, those threads really do spread out from one another. This is named We Are Legion for a reason, and I did sometimes have difficulty keeping all the Bobs straight in my head (that sentence will make more sense if you read the book).
Overall, I think it mostly works, and give it 4.5 stars. My wife was bored during parts of it, but I’m more of a science geek, so those were probably the parts that most interested me. This is the first book in a trilogy (the other two are already out), but I think he could set dozens of stories in this universe. His options are almost endless.
I listened to the Audiobook, and I have to single out some praise here. I don’t know that this’ll go on the top shelf with Stephen Fry’s Harry Potter or the Dresden Files by James Masters, but Ray Porter does a marvelous job with the narration. Some of the jokes only really land if you get the references, and I’m not sure that I would’ve gotten them all had I just been reading it. There’s a scene, for instance, where one of the Bob’s has his fingers steepled while he says, “excellent.” Porter does that in Mr. Burns’ voice from The Simpsons, but I’m not sure I would’ve made that connection otherwise.
Anyway, I think this book is right up the alley of a lot of Cannonballers. If you haven’t checked this out yet (and I’m guessing you haven’t – this hasn’t been reviewed!), I recommend it.