Review: The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu (@wes_chu)
The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu is another of those books that made its way onto my reading radar before it was published and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it in the library just a week or two after publication date. Naturally it came home with me straight away!
I love the premise of The Lives of Tao – incorporeal aliens form symbiotic relationships with humans in order to fight an ongoing war and guide humanity towards a point where technology can return the aliens to their homeworld. The aliens have been around for thousands of years and seem to have had a hand in many of the influential points in history, but of course this is all very secret.
Even better than this in my mind is the fact that the latest host for an alien called Tao is a slacker computer programmer (I know a few of these!) called Roen. Overweight, unmotivated and generally kind of average, he is exactly the kind of hero I’ve been waiting for. It might be heroic when people with extraordinary powers do great things, but it’s even more awesome when it’s just an ordinary guy who steps up to the mark when he’s needed. Go Roen!
The characters are great in The Lives of Tao, particularly Roen. He is a guy you really feel for, whether he is shooting at aliens or dragging himself out of bed for the dreaded run to the lake. I’m waiting for the Lives of Tao fitness programme to hit the market – ‘host an alien and shape up your life’. It really seemed to work for Roen! It was good seeing how he developed from lazy nerd to motivated alien fighter.
Tao is also a brilliant character and his dry sense of humour made for several laugh out loud moments. I liked the bits of history that were brought in through Tao’s memories, it added a little something extra and might just get a few people out there researching the details. It was neatly woven together with the alien story and I enjoyed it a lot. Another thing that deserves a mention in this is that it has a good international appeal. I often find that great characters from history end up being great Americans and Chu did well to bring in such an eclectic mix of historical figures, from Genghis Khan to Winston Churchill via almost everything in between. Once you understand about all these characters the cover art starts to make sense and you find that it is the perfect design for this book.
There’s a dash of romance, plenty of action and the plot carries you along but with nice variations in pace so it isn’t all go go go. It is all combined very well and I really appreciate that the violence is not romanticised or gratuitous. Roen’s reactions to the fighting is very human and I think brings a moment of contemplation. It’s good to have this kind of balance in a book.
I loved The Lives of Tao and can’t wait for the next book. I bought a copy for a good friend of mine and he loved it too. Even my partner, who takes some heavy persuasion to read anything that isn’t grand space opera, loved it and devoured it over a single weekend. I might have nagged him a teeny bit about reading it but I think he was glad I persevered in the end!