Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

The Lives of Tao
Author:  Wesley Chu
Series:  The Lives of Tao 1
Publisher:  Angry Robot Books, April 30, 2013 (US/Canada)
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 464 pages
Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780857663290 (print)
Cover Art:  Argh! Oxford
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

When out-of-shape IT technician Roen woke up and started hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumed he was losing it.

He wasn’t.

He now has a passenger in his brain – an ancient alien life-form called Tao, whose race crash-landed on Earth before the first fish crawled out of the oceans. Now split into two opposing factions – the peace-loving, but under-represented Prophus, and the savage, powerful Genjix – the aliens have been in a state of civil war for centuries. Both sides are searching for a way off-planet, and the Genjix will sacrifice the entire human race, if that’s what it takes.

Meanwhile, Roen is having to train to be the ultimate secret agent. Like that’s going to end up well…

File Under: Science Fiction [ The Tug of War | I Was Genghis | Diary of a Slob | Spy vs Spy ]

Brannigan's Review

The Lives of Tao is a realistic, action-based, science fiction story tailor-made for the modern-day video gamer. I don't think I'm the first person to read this book and think of a certain time-traveling video game franchise that just happens to land in the coolest eras. Wesley Chu excels at writing fast-paced action scenes that show an honest point of view in regards to how the characters react both physically and emotionally to the wounds and stress of battle. Chu used the fact that the main character was an everyman to wonderful effect for comedy, which helps lighten the mood. Chu should also be praised for the fact that he didn't make the beginner level of Roen annoying. I've seen this before and hate it when authors do an origin story and start off by making the hero a weak, annoying schmuck. Thankfully, Chu does not do this with Roen, while still showing him to be a normal guy, who's inexperienced with being a super spy or even basic healthy living--he is a likeable character.

One of the aspects of the novel I was worried about the most ended up being one of my favorite parts. Due to Tao's nature as as alien life form who has to live inside a human host to survive, I was wondering how I as a reader would be able to connect to the two main characters while they shared the same body, but Chu used the beginning of each chapter to great effect to allow Tao to shine and allow me to spend some quality time alone with Tao, and I have to say I enjoyed it so much I'm hoping for more time with Tao in future books.

Ever since I first heard about the Science Fiction sub-genre, Secret History, I've wanted to check it out and I'm glad Chu was my first adventure in Secret History fiction. It was handled perfectly, he followed the Goldilocks adage, and now I will use Chu as my measuring rod against all other authors who write in this sub-genre.

My only complaint of the book would be the fact that Roen becoming a super spy and going on missions and travels around the globe doesn't seem to raise any flags with his roommate/best friend or parents. Chu briefly explains all of this as being part of Roen's new “job,” but I felt Chu could have used the secondary characters to show more concern and even confusion at the 180 degree change in Roen's life, not to mention the battle wounds. I think it would have helped make Roen feel even more real and offer some humorous scenes, but there are two more books in the series, so maybe Chu's saved that for the next book.

The Lives of Tao gives you everything you ever wanted in an action adventure sci-fi book. You've got aliens, intense battles, humor and interesting questions posed. There is plenty of violence but not major issues with language or adult situations, so I would recommended it to young adults and adult readers. I'd also recommend it to anyone who likes earth-bound science fiction, secret history and video game enthusiasts who need to take a break from the consoles.

Also available

The Deaths of Tao
The Lives of Tao 2
Angry Robot Books, October 29, 2013 (US/Canada)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 464 pages
Cover Art: Argh! Oxford

The Prophus and the Genjix are at war. For centuries they have sought a way off-planet, guiding humanity’s social and technological development to the stage where space travel is possible.

The end is now in sight, and both factions have plans to leave the Earth, but the Genjix method will mean the destruction of the human race.

That’s a price they’re willing to pay.

File Under: Science Fiction [ Manning Up | A Long Journey | Bye-Bye Mankind | Personal Space ]


The Rebirths of Tao
Angry Robot Books, December 30, 2014 (US/Canada)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook

Five years have passed since the events in The Deaths of Tao. The world is split into pro-Prophus and pro-Genjix factions, and is poised on the edge of a devastating new World War.
A Genjix scientist who defects to the other side holds the key to preventing bloodshed on an almost unimaginable scale.

With the might of the Genjix in active pursuit, Roen is the only person who can help him save the world, and the Quasing race, too.

And you thought you were having a stressful day…

File Under: Science Fiction


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