All These Worlds – Dennis E Taylor

This might be a bit of a weird review. It’ll have a spoiler of two.

There are a lot of seemingly unfair comparisons that we could make to any series of books. This isn’t Shakespeare, Pynchon, or Delany. I don’t think the author is pretending to compete in those categories either. But there are some fair comparisons we could make. At some point while I was reading this, one came to mind and I thought it might be worth pointing out.

This is the third book in a trilogy. If you need a descriptor of the books, you can really just pop over to the two older reviews. The long and short of it goes as follows: this is Bob. Bob is a Van Neumann probe. As a Van Neumann probe, Bob has adventures. Lots and lots of adventures. But that does transition back into my comparison.

While I was reading this, the book Ready Player One came to mind. Ready Player One, by most people’s account, is garbage. It is a pandering book the pleads to people’s nerdish nostalgia in the worst way possible: by declaring all the things that the author-protagonist cum Mary Sue is familiar with in a ham-fisted fashion. It comes across as a laundry list of nerd-cred.

But a criticism of that book would be a waste of everyone’s time, particularly in the fact that it became the Internet’s punching bag some time ago. I bring it up only to be a foil for what Dennis Taylor did with these books. In these books, there are plenty of references to popular modern nerd-culture. But it is never pandering. It feels like a pretty pleasant homage. In the first novel in this series, the main character clones himself and the clone adopts the name of RIker – after the Star Trek character. There isn’t a long explanation of the protagonist’s, or any of his iteration’s, love for the show. The character comes about and then slides easily into the role of Riker. The character acts like Riker from Star Trek1 and that is really the end of it.

There might be the odd person who reads this blog that actually wants my thought on how this series ends, and not just my moaning that it did something better than one of the worst books of the past few years. As the first book went on, it kept incorporating more and more different story arcs into the larger narrative – as easily as the protagonist was able to clone himself. I was pretty pleased that the sequel didn’t escalate this, but worked mostly on raising the stakes of these independent stories. The third book in the series wraps up the narrative threads in a great way, and somehow still leaves things feeling like he could expand on this if he wanted to. In the most flattering way possible, I feel like Taylor has some pretty solid job security with this series, should he choose to keep it going.

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1 Or so I am told. A bit of a long story, but I’ve never seen more than a handful of episodes of Star trek. I am intimidated by just how much of it there is, and I am worried that I will like it so much that my completionist side will take over and I will lose a year or more of my life to it. Who needs that in 2021?

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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