There exists a sub-genre of Science Fiction that I’m not sure has ever been given a formal name, but that has risen to prominence in recent years. I’m not smart enough to come up with a name that does the genre justice, but for this review we’ll refer to it as Referential Sci-Fi. Referential Sci-Fi is the kind of novels that authors like John Scalzi and Ernest Cline write, books filled to the brim with references to 20th and 21st Century pop and nerd culture. We are Legion (We are Bob) is that kind of novel, falling in the spectrum somewhere between Armada by Cline and Old Man’s War by Scalzi with regards to the amount of references it uses. I tend to be leery of these types of books; they can often often rely too heavily on the nostalgia factor, as I personally feel is the case with Armada, while not presenting enough of a unique story to make the novel memorable.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel, at least once I got past the ridiculous title. We are Legion (We are Bob) tells the story of, you guessed it, Bob, a software engineer who has his brain frozen following an unexpected, and inconvenient death. When he is revived, he discovers that his mind has been co-opted by a group of religious fanatics called FAITH who have taken over the majority of the Continental United States and intend to use him as the mind of a space probe, sent out to explore the galaxy to search for new planets for humans to colonise.
What follows is a surprisingly deft debut novel that is simultaneously engrossing and hilarious, and (mostly) manages to balance its vast scope with still telling a fairly personal story.
What I Liked
I really enjoyed this book overall. I felt that Bob was a relateable character to take us on this weird journey to the stars, and as he begins to multiply himself to expedite his mission I really enjoyed the majority of the “new” versions of him that appeared. I was a little worried that the story would become too muddled or confusing as more “Bobs” spread out throughout the galaxy, but Taylor makes the wise choice to primarily only focus on a handful of the “Bobs”.
This book also found the delicate balance of including pop culture references without relying too heavily upon them. While Bob makes repeated references to things like Star Trek, I truly believe readers unfamiliar with that property (shame!) won’t feel lost without understanding them. Honestly, the majority of the pop culture references in the later 2/3 of the book come from the various names the new “Bobs” assume, and I found trying to puzzle out what they were pulling inspiration from to be surprisingly fun.
Perhaps the best praise I can give this book is this; I wish that I could have picked up the sequel immediately after finishing this novel. Sadly, it isn’t scheduled to release until this March, but I find it very rare for a debut novel by an author to incite that level of excitement in me.
What I Didn't Like
I really only have one major complaint about this book, and it’s sadly a fairly big one. As a result of the story being spread out over such huge interstellar distances this book doesn’t have a proper ending. I really only felt like one of the 5 main “Bob” storylines ended at a satisfying place, that being the story of Riker, the “Bob” who returns to Earth. The rest of the stories felt like they just sort of stopped. I understand why this happened, it makes sense, and I can mostly excuse it, but I really wish the ending felt more immediately satisfying. Granted, that may have been a contributing factor in my being so ravenous for book 2, so maybe I should be praising Taylor for this genius ploy.
Should I Read it?
If you’re a fan of Science Fiction the answer is a definite Yes! I went into this novel with literally no expectations, I mean, look at the title. The book is clever, intelligent and at certain points emotional and compelling. I highly recommend picking it up before the 2nd novel For We are Many comes out this spring.
- Plot 80%
- Writing Quality 80%
- Pacing 75%
- Emotional Connection 75%
- Wildcard 85%
- Re-Readability 75%
- Overall Rating 78%