Oct 8, 2013

[Books] The Deaths of Tao

I totally enjoyed Wesley Chu's debut novel, The Lives of Tao, after getting the chance to read the advance review copy thanks to the Angry Robot Army review program. And so when news of a sequel crystallized, I eagerly awaited  this title in my NetGalley queue.

And now the book is here and I was pretty surprised how quickly I got through it. Then again, it was the same experience that I had with the first book given its rather compelling pacing and overall geek enjoyment factor. This sequel continued to build on what made the first book great and we're certainly all the better for it.

There's a lot going on in this second book with the plot advancing on a number of levels. Thus we follow around different characters on both sides of the conflict, which expands on things beyond the Roen-centric narrative of the first book. And while the book can probably stand releatively well on its own, there's no denying the strong need for one to read both titles in sequence for the full effect.

And yes, this franchise is worth the investment.

Synopsis: The Deaths of Tao is the sequel science fiction novel to The Lives of Tao, as written by Wesley Chu. As with other books that I get thanks to the Angry Robot Army, I've been given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion of the title. The book is scheduled for release on October 29, 2013.

It has been a number of years since the events in the first novel and things aren't doing too well for the Prophus side of the secret Quasing war on Earth. The Genjix have made tremendous advancements including new devices that allow them to scan humans for the presence of Quasings inside them, thus exposing Prophus agents around the world. Roen Tan, the human bonded to the Prophus Tao, has left the ranks and has been acting independently for some time now. He's estranged from his wife Jill, who was bonded to the Prophus Baji at the end of the events in the first novel.

But the Genjix have an even bigger plan - one that involves a way for them to significantly accelerate their efforts to secure the future of their race and find a way home. And naturally this is solution of theirs doesn't exactly factor in the future of the human race - and thus it's down to the Prophus to find a way to stop the Genjix despite being horribly outnumbered and with the Genjix secretly in control of the biggest governments on the planet.

At first I had been expecting the book to act as an immediate sequel to the first novel, but that was not the case. Chu opted to jump us ahead a few years in order to force us as readers to re-acquaint ourselves with this version of the world. And the new status quo is not a comforting one given how the Prophus are certainly backed up into a corner. The first few chapters had me asking a number of questions - the chief among them being, "What the heck happened?"

But don't worry, the decline of the power of the Prophus makes a lot of sense given how things have gone and their overall differences in philosophies with respect to dealing with humanity. Treating humans practically as cattle can certainly result in rather...efficient methods in achieving one's goals.

The book is interesting since you jump between several points of view to tell the story. Of course we have Roen and Tao as a major thread in the book. But then we also have Jill and Baji and their own work in support of the Prophus. And lastly we have new character, the Genjix Zoras and his new Adonis Vessel host Enzo. Thus we get to see how the Genjix plans is progressing as well very early in the book - a glimpse at the action happening on the other side of the conflict.

Chu continues to excel in how he colorfully paints combat scenes, whether they involve assault weapons or intense hand-to-hand combat. And there's a heck of a lot of action to go around in this book given Roen is already in fighting form - especially when compared to how he was at the start of the first book. And I don't think the action was all that excessive, especially considering the state of affairs in the book.

The book continues to shine in how it marries world history with the whole notion of aliens hiding among us. Thus Chu continues to indulge in explaining how more and more historical events and key historical figures were related to Prophus and Genjix efforts to advance their goals over the years. And this doesn't seem like stuff one would just come up with off the top of one's head. It shows a good understanding of history married to a fair amount of thought put into figuring out how best to integrate the stories of the Quasin with our own. And the results are certainly most amusing.

The Deaths of Tao is a great novel and not quite the end of our adventures with Roen, Tao and the rest of the Prophus forces. A third novel is on the way and I'm pretty eager to see how things will resolve come the next novel. Thus the book certainly deserves 5 instances of Roen secretly saving Jill's life out of a possible 5.

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