02 May, 2013

Review - The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

The Past:

Thousands if not millions of years ago aliens crashed to earth and wanted nothing more than to return. To make that happen, it became necessary to encourage technology growth in any way possible and when homo sapiens came around, they were the horse the Quasing (wraith-like aliens who can inhabit living bodies) bet on to make their return home a reality. 

The Present:

Split into two warring factions, the Prophus and the Genjix, the Quasing use humans in a network of spies not only to further their goals of returning home, but also to prevent their counterparts from their own ambitions.


Edward Blair is sold out by his own friend and now former Prophus agent. It's either surrender or get killed, but there's also another way to protect his Quasing, Tao from falling into the hands of the Genjix.

The Lives of Tao [US] [UK] jumps into the life of agent Edward Blair, but our time with Blair is a short one. After being betrayed, we see the first glimpse of what a Quasing is and what it can do. As explained above, they are aliens who can inhabit humans (among other living creatures) and who have lived through the entire history of humanity and longer. This presents an interesting device that allows the Quasing's host a wealth of knowledge at the drop of a hat and which reminded me a little of Brandon Sanderson's novella, Legion, at times. 

The Quasing, Tao, is forced to find a new host almost immediately in the book, and happens upon the main character of the book, Roen Tan - an out-of-shape computer engineer who is in no way prepared for a life of espionage. Instead of a short training montage, we go through the beginning of Roen's training, his workouts, his non-007 type jobs such as monitoring a mailbox, and his progression to missions with more responsibility and danger. 

I love a good training or schooling book and this one's no exception. Roen has to not only master his body, but learn to function with his symbiotic Quasing relationship.

While sometimes confusing, because it can sometimes be difficult to tell if Roen is talking to Tao inside his head or to another person, a fun dynamic develops between Roen and Tao as Tao sarcastically tries to get Roen in shape. Other people have Quasing too and luckily The Lives of Tao is told in third person limited so we don't get the back-and-forth from any other character but the one point of view.

This book is filled with great ideas, none of which are bogged down in exposition. The fast pace is kept up throughout the book and the way things are set up to train Roen really help that - lots of training mixed with action makes for a happy reader. One of those ideas, only hinted at above, essentially makes the Quasing the cause of pretty much every major (and probably minor) event in history.

Toa himself formerly invented Tai Chi and inhabited Genghis Khan among other famous historical people. This was a fun concept, but I did find it hard to take fully. It's not ever claimed, but it's made to seem that every single event was caused by the Quasing and if everything, then nothing caused by humanity. Then again, you can't complain too much about it because the concept works and it has to be thorough.
In the end, I had a great time with The Lives of Tao and will be checking in this October for the second installment in this series, The Deaths of Tao. Great ideas mixed with great action and a non-stop pace made this book extremely hard to put down. Bravo, Mr. Chu!

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended!)

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.


Myron said...

It sounds like a good read. I'll have to check this one out sometime.

Bryce L. said...

I highly doubt you'll regret it. I had a great time with this one.