This is the kind of book if you mix Robert Sawyer and John Scalzi. Sawyer likes to write about personalities or consciences put into an AI/robot form. Scalzi likes to write about the future of humanity in space. We are Bob is a personality or personalities put into a robot form, charged with exploration, colonisation and the future of mankind. And it’s one heck of an interesting read.
The plots in this novel are what hard sci-fi readers crave. The best part is that this book explores it to the fullest. You have doomsday scenarios, space colonisation, and looking for signs of life elsewhere in the galaxy all in one book. Not to mention Bob’s questioning of his existence as an AI. The best part is that the novel unfolds smoothly, which each main plotline being logical extensions of the original plotline. You get all the plots you crave for, and none of them feel forced.
The decision to make the POV character an AI based on a human personality, Bob, was a great one for multiple reasons. Firstly, you only need one character for this novel, Bob, and his many iterations/clones, Bobs. The Bobs are all extremely witty when talking to each other and make for many laughs with their delightful banter. Second, because the AI Bobs are immortal, the actual exploration events set in space, which would take many years can be shortened down into a readable narrative. AI Bob doesn’t have to experience time minute for minute and can just skip years of dull time used for space travel and then just pick up where he left off. Third, the AI Bobs make for a good thought experiment as to how AI might think and how they might question ‘themself’, themselves, and their own existence. As well as how they or any AI would respond to situations at hand.
The only real issue I found in this book was the interactions and introductions of new AI Bobs. Because most of the individual AI Bobs have similar personalities (and similar everything actually), it starts to be hard to tell them apart. Where in a conventional story, you can tell characters apart by their personality or features, you only can tell AI Bobs apart by their name and mission. Ultimately I had to resort to scribbling down simple notes of each major AI Bob and their mission just to keep track of who’s who. (I listened to this book in audio, so it made the problem worse.) In some ways, I can’t fault the author for this because the plot demands it, but maybe he could have found a better way to introduce the AI Bobs or label them. Even some sort of chart would have helped. In the audiobook form, the narrator did help a little by giving some of the AI Bobs a different accent.
I highly recommend this book to any sci-fi enthusiast. It’s hard sci-fi but written in light-hearted tones that anyone can easily pick up. Personally, I find this book to be a refreshing narrative in the sci-fi genre and it has definitely set itself apart from the recent sci-fi publications. Considering that this novel is the author’s first published work, it is exceptionally good.
Story/Plot (50%): 5/5
Character Development (25%): 4.5/5
Writing style (25%): 4/5
Total : 4.62/5
– I read this as an audiobook