All These Worlds (Bobiverse, Volume 3), by Dennis E. Taylor
Volume 1 of the Bobiverse introduced us to the original Bob. Bob #1. A computer programmer with a term in his will that he be cryogenically preserved is struck by a bus in Las Vegas and wakes up to find himself installed as the artificial intelligence of a spaceship designed to find new places for humans to go after a horrible war.
Bob finds that he can copy his entire mind into other spaceships and copies himself dozens of times. But each new copy offers a unique personality. It’s Bob, but not quite Bob. Each new copy takes on a new name after favorite things in Bob’s life, mostly cartoon characters and science fiction heroes. This continues through Volume 2, where we also see the horrors of The Others, a strange alien race that will find a planet, strip it of all minerals, and eat any living beings whether they are intelligent or not. Because of attacks by the Bobs they have decided to head to earth.
Now in Volume 3, there are hundreds of Bobs, each running his own ship with self-replicators. One of the Bobs has advanced the creation of androids to the point that Bob and his many copies can inhabit these to live with people again, with all the sensory benefits. The original Bob has chosen an android that looks like the first intelligent race he found in Volume 1. This race has one highly intelligent being, who Bob dubs Archimedes, who has the skills to teach his people how to use flints and stone weapons for protection. Bob has disguised himself as one of the race because of his fondness for Archimedes.
Another Bob has taken on human form to romance a beautiful redhead scientist, the one whose husband was killed in an accident in an earlier book. Still another is determined to protect earth from The Others.
Dennis Taylor brings a great deal of humor to his books. This book, however, adds poignancy to the mix. The Bobs have been immortal for a long time. They’ve watched friends age and die. They miss many of the physical parts of being human rather than communicating as the mind of a space ship.
Taylor has produced books with the best features of a space opera — adventure, battles, aliens, vast dimensions — with a very funny and touching trio of books. At times it’s a little dizzying to jump from Bob to Bob to Bob as each part of the plot develops, but in other ways that adds to the excitement. Part of the fun of fiction is the stuff not told between chapters that lead from one scene/act to another. With so many Bobs in the mix the narrative speeds by, with a simple name at the start of each chapter to help track your location in the galaxy.