Christal’s Review – 4 Skulls – B+
The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu was a very interesting take on aliens and the body snatcher archetype. The narrative was extremely funny and the characters were all very well developed. I enjoyed learning about the war between the Prophus and the Genjix and I especially enjoyed the developing relationship between Roen and Tao. Mr. Chu has created a fabulous new mythology and I cannot wait to see how all the different plotlines play out.
Tao is an alien entity that must live inside a human host in order to survive our Earthly environment. The book begins with Tao inhabiting a very experienced secret agent named Edward. Suffice it to say, Tao doesn’t stay with Edward very long but the way that Mr. Chu develop Edward into such a sympathetic character in so few pages was masterful. I would have been happy to read an entire story starring Edward and Tao and appreciated the fact that Edward’s memory was carried throughout the story and not just forgotten right after the prologue.
After his separation from Edward, Tao enters Roen Tam – a non-voluntary and unwitting host. Roen is overweight, lazy, and unhappy with his life. He hates himself, his job, and pretty much everything in his life. Once Tao introduces himself (mentally only), Roen decides to join the Prosphus cause and enter into Tao’s world. Through their partnership, Roen learns what truly makes him happy and grows the self-confidence to go after it. He becomes a better man for having Tao inside his head and learns exactly what he is capable of.
I wasn’t sold on Roen right away, but he quickly began to grow on me. He started out pretty whiny, but Tao soon whipped him onto shape. Once Roen began to believe in himself, he became a really interesting character and it was nice to be introduced to everything in the Prophus world along with him. Tao was also fascinating; I loved the snippets where he shared stories of his previous hosts. Tao is very knowledgable in many things; he has lived a long time and seen many things, but I think being in Roen helps humanize him. Tao and Roen make a great team and watching them learn to work as partners was a hilarious ride.
The other characters in The Lives of Tao supported the story and advanced the plot beautifully. I think Sonya was probably my favorite secondary character, but Mr. Chu filled this book with interesting people. From Roen’s strictly human roommate Antonio and girlfriend Jill, to the other Prosphus like Baji, and finally the Genjix villains like Marc and Sean, everyone had their place in the story and felt like a useful piece; no one in this story was extraneous.
I was enthralled by Mr. Chu’s debut and think it is one of the top science fiction books I have read so far this year. His prose was cleanly done and the conversations between the characters were peppered with hilarious and insightful quips. Mr. Chu lives up to Angry Robot’s reputation of fine science fiction and fantasy authors and has definitely found himself a new fan in me. I will be looking forward to more in Tao’s world, but will happily follow Mr. Chu in any direction he decides to write. Highly recommended to those looking for a uniquely modern science fiction yarn.
Thank you to Netgalley and Angry Robot Books for providing an ARC copy of this book!
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