Book Review: Heaven’s River (Bobiverse #4) by Dennis E. Taylor

Read my reviews of the previous books in the Bobiverse series:

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (#1) | For We Are Many (#2) | All These Worlds (#3)

The previous three books in this series work as a complete trilogy, but life doesn’t stop when the curtain closes. The versions of Bob that we’re most familiar with are still dealing with the long-term effects of events in the previous books, up to and including experiencing various levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (though that’s never explicitly stated or explored). The Bobiverse and the rest of the sentient species in the galaxy may have destroyed one threat, but there’s lots of galaxy left to explore.

This story takes a lot of what I liked earlier in the series and (mostly) centers it on one focus: a new species, a fascinating bit of technology, and the mystery of a missing Bob. All of these facets are intertwined, and we follow the original Bob and a few of his oldest clones as they pull together a plan to investigate this alien society. Taylor once again did his research to create this story, but unfortunately, he really wants to show all of that to the reader. Many of the discovery and analysis discussions made some scenes drag on, despite the fascinating subject matter. Full disclosure, if I had been reading this story traditionally, rather than listening to the audiobook off and on during a road trip with my spouse, I likely would not have made it to the ending. Similarly, the climactic escape in the latter section of the book featured plenty of moments that were interesting in isolation but together felt vaguely never-ending (much like the road trip). Some of the narrative distance Taylor affects with his characters also removed some of the suspense. However, the final reveals did make a lot of the previous information worth it, as Taylor neatly converges multiple threads that tie things off without feeling a little too perfect.

Another element that adds to the length of the book in both positive and negative ways is the additional worldbuilding Taylor features as a natural result of the concepts set up by this series. Bob’s initial cohort of clones has resulted in a vast community of multiple generations of Bobs, and the issue of “replicative drift” leads to fascinating character differences. These personality differences, combined with the large amount of power inherent to their status, bring new meaning to the concept of “internal conflict.” Alas, for all the complaints about personality change in the various Bob factions, I still found every Bob incarnation still reminded me a lot of the basic tech bro white guy. Brigid was often a welcome foil, and though Taylor teased the existence of a “Bobbi,” I do wish he had felt more confident in leaning into the character concept by bringing them forward to create even more diversity (and resulting conflict).

Overall, this was a solid follow-up to the initial trilogy. Based on that experience, I’ll admit that I knew what I was getting into such that none of the criticisms I mentioned above were necessarily a surprise. I certainly don’t regret the hours spent listening. Though this series is limited by certain elements that I commonly dislike in the science-fiction genre, I still found the full Bobiverse, and this book in particular, to be solid, enjoyable entertainment.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars
Amazon | Goodreads | BookBub

Published by J.L. Gribble

Author, Editor, Worldbuilder

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