The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

Posted On 28 March 2015

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Just finished The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu.  I’m a bit late to the party with this one and I don’t know why I’ve waited so long but now I can pretty much read the entire series in short order which I fully intend to do as this was such a good read.

The book starts with a James Bond type action scene in which one man dies and as he takes his last breath the alien entity that lived within him is released and seeks the shelter of a new host.  By way of background: many, many years ago aliens crash landed on the planet earth and unable to survive without a host eventually settled on humans.  Their ultimate aim is to return home yet during their time here the group of aliens have become divided over the treatment of humans and civil war has ensued.  The Genjix are the more powerful of the two groups of aliens.  They believe that humans are little more than a means to an end – to get off the planet.  The Prothus on the other hand want to protect humans and the planet – they pretty much also want to get off planet but think this can be achieved in a more balanced fashion.

In terms of the alien/host relationship.  When an alien takes over a human the two remain in symbiosis until the death of the host – in fact this is the only way for the alien to be released. In that respect humans are groomed from an early age training for the day when they might be deemed worthy to become a host.

The names of the two main characters in the story are Tao (the alien) and Roen (his host).  Roen is an unsuspecting and pretty much unwilling host.  He’s not ready for this experience and takes a lot of training to get anything up to a standard where he can keep himself alive even!  Tao is a very interesting character and shares some of his prior history at the start of each chapter which makes for quite intriguing reading.

I’m not really going to elaborate on the plot but more outline what worked for me with this story.

Firstly, it’s actually good fun.  The dialogue between Roen and Tao is amusing to say the least.  Chu really set this up well by finding two such opposite characters.

Secondly, I really like the idea that for once the central protagonist is not really ‘the chosen one’.  Roen is an unfit, nerdy, tongue tied, computer geek who’s idea of a good time is a big greasy pizza oozing with cheese and a couple of beers.  He doesn’t have an inner ninja waiting to break out and frankly even when he has trained hard he’s still no hardass-butt-kicking hero.  He frequently fumbles his gun or goes into a complete paralysis stuck like a rabbit in the headlights at the first sign of danger.  I just find it really refreshing to have a relatively normal guy. I’m not saying he’s the most easy to like character I’ve ever read because frankly he can be a bit whiney but he feels real with all his flaws.

Thirdly, I like the main concept of the aliens who are really a little like body snatchers – okay, they don’t kill the human or make another version when they inhabit but let’s face it – the only way you’re going to be released from this situation is if you meet the Grim Reaper.

Fourthly, the pacing is fast and there’s plenty of action.

I’m not going to deny that I had a few niggles and conflicting feelings when reading – like, the war between the aliens, I’m not really convinced by it.  At the end of the day none of the aliens actually ever seem to die – they just jump ship.  The only real casualties are the humans which is kind of ironic given that the Prothus are warring with their kind in order to protect people from mistreatment. I also wasn’t convinced that under the circumstances so many humans would be on side ready to devote or even sacrifice themselves for the alien cause – particularly when ultimately the aliens want to leave.  Where on earth would that leave the humans – the aliens after all seem to have been the main instigators of our entire history not to mention the main catalyst for inventions.  And, when the aliens are eventually in a position to leave – well, how they going to get out of the bodies that are hosting them???  That’s not going to end well for the hosts methinks.  I don’t see what the humans get out of the relationship other than a complete lack of privacy from the moment they become a host to the moment of their quite often untimely death?  Not that there’s much you can do about it anyway – you’re not exactly asked for consent before your body is taken over.

But, in spite of my niggles or questions I did really enjoy this and I can’t wait to see where it leads next.  Like I said it’s a whole bunch of fun and a little whirlwind of a book where the pages just speed by.  Providing you don’t want to scrutinise the detail to an nth degree this is a very enjoyable read that I would definitely recommend.

24 Responses to “The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu”

  1. medievalotaku

    This seems like a fun book, especially with having a geek as the hero in this scenario. I’ll have to keep it in mind.

  2. Genki Jason

    Sounds like a story I’d like. Also, creatures taking over human bodies makes me think of… Not Invasion of the Body Snatchers… but Parasyte!

    • lynnsbooks

      I enjoyed it. It definitely had a few points that I had niggles with but the book itself was good enough for me to put those niggles aside. Kind of dreading looking at your youtube clip but here goes …

    • lynnsbooks

      Haha – yeah, I’ve seen that before, probably on your blog (although you might have also sent me something). I love it actually! Is that wrong?

      • Genki Jason

        By the end of Parasyte you’ll want an alien in charge of your right hand much like Migi! He’s one of my favourite characters of all time!

      • lynnsbooks

        I know – freaky as it may sound – good job it took over his hand though and not his brain.
        Lynn 😀

      • Genki Jason

        You have no idea how on the mark that comment is within the context of Parasyte 😀

  3. romeorites

    Loved this book and the sequel. It’s such a fast paced read and a whole lot of fun. I found Roen more likable as the book goes on. Might have to have a recap of them before Rebirths is out. More is revealed about the Prophus and Genjix conflict in the next book i believe.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, – i’m two thirds through the second now. Things are hotting up!!
      Lynn 😀

  4. Stephen P. Bianchini

    Happy you liked it and yes, I fully agree on those critical points. But it’s good fun, definitively refreshing!

    • lynnsbooks

      It really is – and I’m on No.2 and two thirds in already. Different feel than the first and full of intrigue!
      Lynn 😀

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    This is a great series, Lynn! I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I do recommend the rest of the series. Book two is a little darker, but I have to say the third book which I just finished reading is the best of the trilogy! So it’s a series that goes uphill rather than down for sure 🙂

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I’m already two thirds into No.2 and enjoying it very much. What a great series.
      Lynn 😀

  6. jenclair

    I haven’t heard about this series before, but I certainly like the sound of it!

    • lynnsbooks

      It’s really good. A great concept and well executed. Chu has a good style.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Ria

    I read the first book a while ago and pretty well enjoyed it. Haven’t read the other 2 in the series yet, though I really should, since they seem to be so action-packed that they’ll be quick and exciting reads and the time will just fly by! And I hear they get better as they go!

    • lynnsbooks

      I’m having a marathon run. I’ve read the second now and going to start No.3. I like reading them one after the other like this.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Miriam

    Ohhhhh, I was just thinking about reading this one and there you go reviewing it! (And the second! Must have been really good…!). Looks like a lot of fun.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah – and now I’m reading No.3 – it’s a great way to read a series – all in one with no lengthy wait in between.
      Lynn 😀

  9. In review: 2015 so far… |

    […] Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu, The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu, The Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu (bit of a cheat here but I read all three in fairly short order – bit like reading Lord of the Rings all in one go – so, not really a cheat at all when you think about it!) – really original, full of action […]

  10. ‘But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!…’ |

    […] Tan from The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu- this is probably a bit of a strange choice but Roen definitely goes down a different […]

  11. ‘No, I am your father..’ | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Unlikely hero: Roen Tan from Wesley Chu’s Tao series […]

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