Heaven’s River (2021) is the fourth book in Dennis E. Taylor’s amusing and intelligent BOBIVERSE series. You’ll first want to read the previous three books, We Are Legion (We Are Bob), For We Are Many, and All These Worlds, or you’ll be lost. This review will contain mild spoilers for the previous books.
By this point in the Bobiverse timeline, the Earth has gone into an ice age after a nuclear winter killed 99% of the humans who lived there. There are thousands of Bobs spread out over a 100-light-year radius. Many have important projects going on in various places in the universe, such as helping to terraform planets for humans to live on.
Other Bobs, however, have become bored and restless. Even though they’re supposed to be clones of each other, generations of “replicative drift” have caused them to become less Bob-like. Many of the younger Bobs think the older Bobs are meddling too much in the affairs of other sentient beings and the older Bobs can’t understand why the younger Bobs, who have become isolationists, don’t care about anyone other than themselves. Distrust and suspicion have begun to affect their interactions and it’s clear that they are no longer all “of one mind” and will have to figure out how to build a society they can all live with. For the first time, it might need to involve some formal rules and institutions.
Meanwhile, one of the older Bobs, named Bender, has been missing for over 100 years, so original Bob decides to go looking for him. Bender had been on a mission and Bob begins to suspect he got sidetracked after discovering a mysterious object which turns out to be an O’Neill cylinder built by aliens that look like beavers. The Bobs decide to investigate the structure and take Bridget, the mortal biologist that Howard loves, with them. Here they discover a troubled society on the brink of war. They need to find Bender and free him before war breaks out and Bender gets lost forever.
Heaven’s River is an entertaining installment in the Bobiverse. Most of the action takes place on the O’Neill cylinder as Bob’s team searches for Bender. I enjoyed this adventure, but probably mostly because I like stories that take place on such (and similar) structures. Readers who aren’t interested in the engineering/physics of terraforming an O’Neill cylinder are likely to eventually become bored with the repetitive nature of this storyline: sneak, hide, chase, swim, sneak, hide, chase, swim.
Into his story, Taylor skillfully integrates issues that our human societies are currently dealing with such as prejudice, the fear of being displaced, and concerns about artificial intelligence. Most interesting to me were the speculations about how some rules of quantum mechanics might imply life after death and the existence of the soul. For the nerds there are, as usual, plenty of geeky sci-fi references.
Ray Porter narrates the audiobook edition which was published by Audible Studios. Porter is one of the very best and his performance is, as always, first-rate.