The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu – Advance Review [Bane of Kings]

The Lives of Tao

Bane of Kings writes an Advance Review of The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu, a debut novel published by Angry Robot.

“An awesome, fun read allows for another strong debut of 2013.” ~The Founding Fields

The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu is a very interesting book, and right from the start you will find yourself drawn into the strong narrative and the interesting characters. It’s a story that has been inspired from sci-fi and comics, however whatever your tastes are you’ll find something to enjoy in this book. It’s an entertaining, funny and page-turning read, and with a few problems aside, The Lives of Tao is a very strong debut novel and I will certainly looking forward to be reading more of Wesley Chu.

When out-of-shape IT technician Roen woke up and started hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumed he was losing it.

He wasn’t. He now has a passenger in his brain – an ancient alien life-form called Tao, whose race crash-landed on Earth before the first fish crawled out of the oceans. Now split into two opposing factions – the peace-loving, but under-represented Prophus, and the savage, powerful Genjix – the aliens have been in a state of civil war for centuries. Both sides are searching for a way off-planet, and the Genjix will sacrifice the entire human race, if that’s what it takes.Meanwhile, Roen is having to train to be the ultimate secret agent. Like that’s going to end up well…

The characters in this book are all fun and enjoyable to read about. Roen is a compelling, rootable lead character and when he wakes up to start hearing voices in his head, it’s interesting to see how he reacts. Only the voices aren’t him sinking into insanity. It’s Tao, an alien, and he finds himself drawn into a war between two sections of rivals in the alien species – Prophus and Genjix, in a style that reminded me of Desmond’s journey in Assassin’s Creed, only that the animus is actually an alien life form in his head rather than a machine, and the Prophus and Genjix can be compared to the struggles of the Assassins and the Templars.

The Lives of TaoIf’ you’re looking for a book that manages to balance humour and seriousness then Chu gets it just right here. There are several amusing moments in this book particularly in the opening sequence, where we see how Tao came from his former host to Roen, and needless to say – the transition from Edward to Roen is somewhat unexpected for the alien involved, as he’s used to sharing the same bodies as people like Ghengis Khan, and it’s very interesting to see Roen’s journey even if the journey of nerd to an experienced fighter is not one that’s all too original.

The characters Roen and Tao are a pivotal point to this story and it’s very interesting watching and learning how they get on with each other, especially as initially they both don’t like their newfound roles. Especially as going from an experienced, well-trained Edward, to a guy who can barely walk up stairs without running out of breath is more than a bit disheartening for Tao, made even more so when they eventually meets up with similar Prophus.

However, The Lives of Tao is not perfect, and there is perhaps one main flaw that I found with this book, and that was the time jumps, which became annoying at times and in some cases the pacing as a whole wasn’t entirely as clean as it could have been. Like a James Bond film we find ourselves thrown in right at the deep end, but whilst it works for a spy movie it doesn’t really work for a book where we’re only first introduced to the new characters and all the new terminology. Thankfully, over time – it does come easier to the reader though, and as a result the flaws in this book don’t have a very big impact.



Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and a prolific reviewer who can be found on many places on the internet usually under the same username – when he’s not trying to catch up on the many seasons of Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


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