The Rise of Io by Wesley Chu
I loved The Rise of Io – in fact I’m just going to be totally reckless (‘fools rush in, something something something….’) and say that this is my favourite Chu book to date. I don’t know whether that’s because we’re back in the world of Quasings, whether it’s because it’s a world I’m already familiar with or whether it’s the characters of Ella, Io and The Scalpel – or maybe simply a winning combination of all of those facts – but I loved it.
Firstly I would like to make clear that although this book takes us back to the world of Quasings this can definitely be started as a fresh series without the need to play catch up with the previous three books (The Lives/Deaths/Rebirths of Tao) – although, having loved those three books I do recommend them to you! That being said, knowing what it’s like starting a story already deeply behind I fully appreciate sometimes having a new place to start and so if you don’t enjoy playing catch up you could jump straight in with this one. Chu does a perfect job of laying out the basics of the world and the aliens that inhabit it and surprisingly, although I’ve read the previous books, this doesn’t come across as tedious in any way whatsoever – in fact I found the information really helpful after the break between books. Secondly, if you’re a little bit like I am – you’re maybe looking at these books and thinking, ‘mmm, sci-fi, not really my thing’ – if you are thinking that same thought let me just say that it would be a crying shame to miss these books for that reason. Of course the very idea of aliens is science fiction but these books are so very much more – thrillers, mystery, espionage, war and great characters.
Basically the world created by Chu is one in which aliens exist on our planet. Unfortunately the only way for the aliens to function is to co-habit a human body and therefore over the course of history these aliens have been responsible for many significant moments in our world’s development. Unfortunately, the Quasings are at war with each other – in brief, they all want to return home and the only way to do so is to help humans to advance in their capabilities in order to make that a possibility – but they disagree over the way in which to do this. Split into the Genjix and the Prophus the Genjix take a fairly ruthless approach to human existence and see people as necessary casualties of their ultimate aim. The Prophus are more sympathetic to humans and don’t wish to cause unnecessary harm. And so for years war has raged between the two.
At the start of the story we are introduced to Ella Patel. Ella lives in Crate Town and at the beginning of the story she’s in the throes of pulling off a con which leaves her running for her life when the gangsters she’s stealing from catch on! Of course Ella has lived in Crate Town for years and she knows the streets like the back of her hand. Pretty soon she finds herself, hidden in a dumpster, on the outskirts of town and playing witness to two characters who are themselves, similarly, being chased. The two, a man and a woman, are forced to defend themselves and when the man freezes Ella jumps in to help the woman as she fights alone. Unfortunately the woman dies and the Quasing that was inhabiting her body needs a new host – and chooses Ella. And so it begins. The process of denial and acceptance. The eventual realisation that Io’s mission is now Ella’s too.
In terms of plot this is the usual fast paced and intriguing storyline that I’ve come to expect from Chu. We have an element of mystery to the book. Why is Io, one of the Prophus, in India? This is an area that is predominantly Genjix and so it’s both dangerous and puzzling. It seems that the Genjix have taken over a large portion of the area and are using it for a top secret purpose. Heavily guarded by the military anybody who steps into the wrong part of town seems to mysteriously disappear. On top of this we seem to have a traitor amongst the Prophus and that, coupled with Ella’s inherent distrust of anybody else makes for very interesting reading.
Place. Well, we basically have a slum, where crates are stacked to create homes. This place is really not the sort of place that you’d like to wander into haplessly – even in the full light of day. Rough and full of thieves, conmen and gangsters one has to become tough to survive.
The characters are what made this so enjoyable for me, well, I say that, but also the writing which so easily brings them to life on the page and turns them into characters that you will care about. Obviously we have Ella. She is a wiry, tough little nut with a heart of gold. I love her – the way she’s always looking for an angle, her prickly exterior, the fact that her best friend and burglar alarm is a dog, the way she steps in to help others and watching her have her first ever crush! Compelling reading. Then we have her Quasing Io. Io has lead a very long life but not maybe one that is totally noteworthy! Io is a fairly low ranked Prophus who isn’t going to find Ella an easy person to control or persuade. Such a different angle to the Quasing in the last books that it was a refreshingly unexpected surprise. The banter and struggle between these two is just brilliant to behold . Then we have the Genjix. Known as Shura the Scalpel with a Quasing called Tabs – she is absolutely ruthless and very appropriately named. Cold, calculating and ambitious. The very qualities that are prized in a Genjix Adonis.
On top of all this the writing is wonderful. Chu is definitely smooth – there are no info dumps or flashbacks. With a few seemingly simple sentences he teases out his cast in a way that makes them spring to life, the same with the place. Literally, pages into this book and I was hooked.
A thoroughly enjoyable read and one that I practically devoured in two bites and a finish that makes me wonder when the next book is due out?? No pressure Mr Chu.
I received a copy of this through Netgalley courtesy of Angry Robots for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.