All These Worlds

November 24, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

worldsAll These Worlds by Dennis E. Taylor

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From the first book in the Bobiverse, I had some qualms about the whole premise. I hadn’t planned on reading anything past that book, but the ending had enough questions left unanswered that I persevered. I didn’t find much more to like in the second book, but having come that far, I figured I should finish it out and read the third book. This is a long way of saying I wasn’t expecting much out of All These Worlds.

The books have been easy to read, and are strangely compelling, despite that they feel so distant. The stories have felt emotionless, with things happening so quickly (and sometimes off screen) that it’s hard to feel a connection with any of the characters. It doesn’t help that Bob and his progeny have this smartassery about them that gets tiresome over the course of one book, much less three. All These Worlds has the first moment in the trilogy where I felt like I was having an emotional response, but then Taylor had to go and ruin it by ending it with one of the Bobs saying “Live long and prosper.”

All of the characters in this series — even those outside of the Bobs — have similar voices. They’re all witty and sarcastic, but ultimately charming. Even the human characters who are set up as foils have these characteristics, which pushes credibility. And everyone — everyone — chuckles. They don’t titter, or guffaw, or laugh; they chuckle. For some reason, this started to annoy the crap out of me near the end of the book.

My biggest complaint with the second book was that it was so repetitious, with the Bobs constantly on the move to search and adapt worlds for human life. There’s an element to that here, too, but since most of the settlements have been established, the story focuses on the main threat of the entire series — the Others. There’s much more at stake with this book, and it helps anchor the book and give it a focus, which the previous book didn’t have. It still has several plots interacting at once (possibly meandering through time? At one point I think one of the chapters jumped back a decade or two), but the threat of the Others prevails.

There were other subplots that kept my interest, but in looking back, I realize they play little to no role in the battle with the Others. I think Taylor is trying to establish the different personalities of the Bobs by giving them a focus outside of the larger threat, but they seem useless in retrospect. The cast of Bobs has grown large (a couple of hundred, I believe; regardless, it’s large enough that Taylor didn’t bother with a family tree this time around), and Taylor clearly wants to end the stories of the most prominent Bobs that began the story, but it winds up making the book feel unfocused by comparison.

The book is fine, and has a strong ending that fits the trilogy, but it doesn’t change my opinion of the overall series. Remove the smartassery, create characters that feel more distinct, and expand on the themes of the trilogy, and this could have been a classic science fiction novel. As it is, though, it feels amateurish, despite its readability.

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