Another day, another review posted on the Blogmachine. This week we’ll be taking a look at The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu (amazon link). I’m not sure exactly what counts as spoiler territory in this book, but I think I’ll be safe as long as I don’t reveal too much that you can’t find out by reading the back cover.
First off, it’s yet another first book in a series. Nothing that I’ve picked up has been completely stand alone, and that’s a good thing (because more story, yay!) but it can also be disappointing because I’m a spoiled child at heart and don’t like waiting. But good news! Chu has two more books already out in this series (it claims to be a trilogy, I’ll confirm once I read the last book), which is good, because if this book is your kind of thing, the gnawing and gnashing will be minimal as you have to wait to mainline the next in the series. I devoured the book in less than 24 hours. I read late into the night, at the parking garage at work, and had to fight the urge to pick it up at stoplights on the road. It’s that good.
So what exactly is Lives of Tao about? It’s the story of an out of shape programmer that becomes the vessel for a nearly immortal alien symbiont caught in a secret battle for the fate of Earth and humanity. It’s science fiction in it’s conceit, but that’s not the focus of the book. It’s a coming of age story for the arrested development set. But really, it’s a good old fashion spy novel.
Chu does a fairly decent job with the characters, especially Roen Tan and the titular Tao, but it can be easy to forget there’s not more than a dozen or or so people in Tan’s world, including his enemies. The background characters are a little thin, but in a way that works, and gives Chu more time to flesh out Roen, Tao, and a few others you meet along the way.
I’m trying to think of a better way to describe the world building than a plain and simple ‘cool’. The secret history of the world in Lives of Tao is perfect for anyone that loves a good conspiracy, a fresh take on some of the themes explored in Assassin’s Creed and 100 Bullets without hitting on anything too clichéd.
The real winning point of this book is the pacing. There was no way I could put this book down at anything other than a chapter break, and I “one more chapter”ed myself well into the night. It was tense. My heart ponded. I laughed. I cursed. I was with Roen every step of the way.
Part of growing up is realizing how some of the things you liked when you were young are things that are meant to be grown out of. When I started college, I drank some of the worst plastic bottle liquor on the planet, but by the time I stopped drinking a few years ago, I preferred El Dorado Special Reserve. When I was a kid, I read metric crap ton of a Raymond E. Feist’s Krondor novels, but now I prefer Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. In the same vein, as a kid, I loved Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt novels, but now I’d much rather read about Roen Tan and Tao.
TLDR: A great spy novel with a strong dash of sci-fi. Nearly impossible to put down until it’s done. 5/5