Note: My friends and I formed a book club. Time on our hands during the pandemic.
Review by Daniel Ruth
The premise of the book is that a man from our general era has arranged to have his head preserved upon death. In the future, he is to be revived once medical science has advanced to a sufficient degree. He dies almost immediately after and things take a turn for the worse as he wakes up in a future dystopia where his mind has been translated into software. He makes the best of it by becoming the heart of a spaceship probe sent to explore and ready planets for colony ships to be sent afterward. Things fall apart.
I won't go into plot details, though it is fairly straightforward. There is a twist in the beginning but its, not a huge surprise if your paying attention. On the surface, the story is a bit fluffy, it's almost typical Kindle Unlimited fare, where there is a minor crisis, a major crisis, and then the end (broadly speaking). Rinse and repeat for the next story in the series. Still, it was enjoyable for what it was. I thought it was a bit short and read the entire trilogy in a day and a half. My sensibilities on length may be suspect though since I saw the hardcopy my friend ordered and it was a respectable size.
There are several elements worth mentioning. First is the meaning of life. Really. If you clone someone and kill the original its murder, right? The original is dead and the clone is, at best, a twin brother. Lets take it a step further. If you copy that original into software and then delete that software, is it murder? What if you copy it first? If you are that AI and copy yourself to go into a hazardous situation is it morally right? All these questions are explored. Without the 'soul' or religious context, it is simplified a bit but it's still an interesting conversation.
The second element is transhumanism. The next step in human evolution. Generally, this is portrayed by cyborgs but this book isn't the first to go the AI route. Some of the issues he explores take a bit of twisting to the world in order to fit right, generally leading to a pretty depressing view on humans. Since many of these situations mirror our present reality it can be argued how realistic they are. Overall, the protagonist gets a pretty poor view of the human race.
The third element is what I found most striking. What does immortality mean? I mean everyone wants to live forever, right? What if everyone died around you? What if only you and clones went on? It could get pretty grim... but who doesn't want immortality even if you have to deal with that? It's an interesting journey and I like the slow evolution of his philosophy as this situation slowly sinks in. It doesn't show up so much in the first book but later in the series this becomes the core. When this is resolved in the third book and it ends it feels like an excellent wrap up of a trilogy even as some of the events march on. Perhaps too much so. I almost feel that if a fourth book comes out I may not really need to read it. I would, of course, but it just felt perfect.
There were aliens. Some good and some bad, but it wasn't really what I was reading the book for. The interaction with the primitive civilization may be fascinating if that's what you're interested in but its just not my cup of tea. It wasn't bad and as time marches on it reinforces the isolation of immortality but not my thing. The evil aliens were... evil. They were genocidal and irredeemable. A fair villain if a bit two dimensional. The moral implications were only lightly touched upon, but that wasn't terrible. No one wants to feel bad for defending yourself and despite the darker tones of the novel and exploration of what it means to be alone together (OMG a pandemic reference), I didn't really pay attention to the grimdark until it was pointed out.
Generally, I hate novels that split the point of view. I want a single POV or, at most two, so I can develop a rapport with the main character. This novel did split the point of views but it was understandable since they were all Bob. Sometimes it got a bit confusing on which Bob was doing what, and I occasionally wondered if I had some dyslexic tendencies when I stopped I tried to figure out why the Bob I thought I was reading about turned out to be another. I think that might just be me. There were a lot of Bobs.
On the whole, this was a pleasant read. Dark undertones aside it was... not a wild ride, more like a steady tour of a small section of the universe. There was fighting, philosophy, and the meaning of life. What more could you want?