All These Worlds by Dennis E. Taylor
Dennis E. Taylor’s BOBIVERSE series has turned out to be a real winner, starting with We Are Legion (We Are Bob) in September 2016 and continuing with For We Are Many in May 2017. Usually I tend to read fairly serious, literary, and ambitious SFF books, but after going through not one, but two long episodes dealing with a debilitating herniated disc this year and being confined to lying on my back for weeks, I badly needed a comic break, and the BOBIVERSE series is a perfect place to get an action-packed, science-literate, hilarious, and even moving story in under 8 hours of audiobook bliss. It would not be an exaggeration to say that narrator Ray Porter is brilliant and absolutely perfect for this series. His delivery is so in tune with the snarky tone of the book that Dennis E. Taylor really should buy him a round or two if he hasn’t already.
If you’re looking for an ultra-fast-paced SF adventure featuring multiple AIs originating from the same individual, Von Neumann probes exploring the galaxy, the moral dilemmas of whether to assist a primitive race as a mechanical god, trying to combat the misguided policies of a human government on a new ocean colony, and battling to save the entire human race AND Bobiverse from an implacable alien race that consumes planetary systems and sentient species as a light snack, these are the books for you.
In All These Worlds, the third installment in the BOBIVERSE, Bob and his other fellow AIs remain engaged in dozens of different situations, mainly exploration and terraforming of planets to create new homes for the surviving remnants of humanity. This is not an easy business, and Taylor devotes a lot of time explaining the science and technology of it, but in a very understandable and reader-friendly way. This time he focuses on the various technologies involved in terraforming, starship engine drive back-engineering, and finding the optimum balance of producing enough technology and equipment to support terraforming while at the same time building enough weaponry to defend humanity from the rapacious Others, who simply have zero interest in sitting down for a cup of tea and discussing their differences like a civilized species.
The terraforming story on Poseidon involves a lot of political machinations between Marcus, one of the Bobs, and the local governing body of this water planet that seems to disagree on EVERY SINGLE POINT of managing the colonies’ development, and this rapidly develops from tense discussions, to embargoes, and finally open warfare. It’s all very frustrating for Marcus, as he is only trying to help them out, but they just won’t see common sense (at least from an immortal AI perspective).
There is also again a bittersweet love story for one of the Bob AIs, Howard, as he is in love with a mortal woman biologist, who is a perfect personality match for him but refuses to consider the idea of being digitally stored and made immortal. Howard, who has seen so many “ephemerals” come and go, cannot idly watch as she ages while he does not, and finds himself in a nasty fight with her children over her last wishes. Once again, this adds an element of thoughtful speculation on what it might mean to live forever, and whether most people really would take this option.
Finally, we have the Others, the implacable advanced alien race that likes to turn star systems into raw materials, and treats sentient beings as food. This time the Others plan to annihilate humanity wherever it has settled in the galaxy, and are racing to Earth to destroy it completely, so it is up to a group of “younger” Bobs to find a way to stop the Others to save both humanity and all the other sentient races that will be callously wiped out if they can’t find a last-ditch solution. Once again, it reminded me of a more light-hearted version of the unstoppable aliens of Alastair Reynolds’ REVELATION SPACE series.
All These Worlds’ story just flies along at near light speed — there are 76 chapters in only 281 pages, which translates to 3.6 pages per chapter. If anything, I think Taylor could slow things down a little and flesh out some of the side story elements, but then again part of the charm of the BOBIVERSE is that it never rests, unlike so many of the bloated series that jam the shelves of bookstores. All the Bobs are relentless workaholics, so the story never stops for very long, despite the wealth of ideas that could get more in-depth treatment in a longer book.
Finally, I must again say that the Kindle versions of all the books are only $4.99 each on Amazon.com and adding Audible narration is only an extra $1.99 if you are an Audible member. That is a ridiculously good deal, and one of the reasons I gave it a try in the first place, so take a trip to the Bobiverse!
This book feels a bit repetitive — a little too much of the same kind of drama that we’ve seen already — but I’m still enjoying the BOBIVERSE!