The Lives & Deaths of Tao – Wesley Chu

About the Book(s)

The Lives of Tao

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…

Published on April 30, 2013
Published by Angry Robot Books

The Deaths of Tao

The sequel to The Lives of Tao.

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.

It’s up to Roen and Tao to save the world. Oh, dear…

Published on October 29, 2013
Published by Angry Robot Books
Author’s webpage

The Lives of Tao is Chu’s first published book, and it made quite a splash. The Lives of Tao is absolutely unique in the fact that it’s urban fantasy, but deals with aliens who have a futuristic understanding, and plenty of kick-ass action. This isn’t your grandma’s urban fantasy. No, Chu has created his own breed with this book, and it’ll pack an impressive punch for those who read it.

The Lives of Tao tells the story of Roen, who ends up with Tao, an alien life form, taking residence in his brain. Roen is an out of shape alcoholic who hates his life, and Tao needs Roen to be an in shape mover-and-shaker to suit his needs. Thus, much of The Lives of Tao is Roen’s story as he adjusts to the presence in his head and trains to fit the role his new life has imposed on him.

This isn’t all about Roen, though. There is a vast almost political war happening between two alien factions – Prophus and Genjix, and Roen finds himself in the middle of it all. There are centers for normality for Roen, though, like his roommate Anthony, and his girlfriend, Jill. It’s an interesting mix, as Roen is learning and developing, balanced with his friends who keep things light and normal. As Roen learns more about Tao and his alien struggles, he also becomes aware of the power struggles between human hosts as they vie for better positions in their jobs, in life, etc. It’s all quite intricate and multifaceted.

The Lives of Tao does what it does very well. It’s a lot of fun, fast moving; plenty of action and adventure, and a brand new take on the old alien trope. It’s obvious that Chu spent a lot of time with his characters, and the addition of Tao, with his own personality adds a lot of humor and depth, which was necessary and will actually end up hooking readers.

The Deaths of Tao is a different animal. Gone are some of the writing hiccups and weird plot jumps that readers might find in The Lives of Tao. Also gone is some of the levity and the light “fun” of the previous book. Chu reaches for a higher level with his writing and it shows. He’s grown a lot between book one and book two, and so has the plot. The first book was about Roen and his struggles and development. Now the world is larger, the stakes are higher, and Roen is who he was training to become, so there’s no need to focus extensively on him. Instead, Chu brings in the perspective of Jill, who added a nice dimension and diversity to the plot.

A few years has passed between Lives and Deaths. The war between Prophus and Genjix has grown. Tao and Roen find themselves in the center of it all. In such a massive uprising between two alien factions, who have to inhabit living creatures to survive, you can imagine that there are now politics involved, and there are, mostly through Jill, who works for the Senate. Added to this is the fact that Jill and Roen now have a son together, which briefly calls back the thrill and emotional turmoil of the first book, while adding a new feel of responsibility and complexities to the second.

While there still is plenty of action, and plenty of adventure, The Deaths of Tao is more about telling a story, rather than developing a character. Chu’s writing is more stylistic and pulled together, the plot feels more natural and less forced. While The Lives of Tao was fun, The Deaths of Tao is fascinating. It looks like Chu has taken everything he learned from writing the first book, polished it, and really threw himself into the task of writing something with more depth and a harder edge.

The ending of The Deaths of Tao is absolutely incredible. Chu holds back nothing, and it will leave readers gaping and wanting more. Write, Chu! The truth is, this series started out as a lot of fun, an interesting book about relationships and growth, and it became something completely different. Chu is one hell of an author, and his story is unique, fun, and vibrant. You can’t help but love the characters, the action is well done and believable, the world is well developed and nicely rounded and you can’t help but love (or hate) the characters.

I honestly have no idea where Chu will go next, but I’m excited to find out. If he grew and developed so much between the first two books, imagine how mind-blowing the third book will be. I honestly cannot wait.

(An interview with the author goes live tomorrow, October 25.)

 

4/5 stars

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