Apr 24, 2017

[Books] The Rise of Io

As much as I have enjoyed Wesley Chu's The Lives of Tao series of books, I was starting to think that the life of the franchise was coming to an end. with Chu already trying to branch out with books like Time Salvager so maybe all the stories of Tao have been told?

The Rise of Io is a very aptly named book as it's the first in the series to focus on another Quasling other than Tao. Now we have Io, a Quasling who may not be as famous and historically relevant as Tao but perhaps could be much more given the chance. And how this book explores this sort of twist to things as different from the core Tao books.

And the book is solidly set in the same book universe as the big war between the Prophus and the Genjix is now an actual event know as the Alien World War. And how things have changed around the world because  of the now open conflict between the alien factions. Thus more and more it's clear that there's still plenty of story left in this setting for Chu to tell.

Synopsis: The Rise of Io is a science fiction book written by Wesley Chu for Angry Robot Books. Disclosure: I received a free advance copy of this book through the Angry Robot Army review program via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion of the work.

Ella Patel is your classic street rat character doing her best to survive in Crate Town, a temporary relocation area in a demilitarized area that has yet to go away. After barely surviving her latest scheme, ends up witnessing the attack of Emily, the latest host of the Quasing Io. Despite her efforts to help Emily, Ella is unable to save them and becomes the next host of Io instead of Emily's auxiliary, Hamilton.

But Ella is a headstrong, highly individualistic  young woman who probably would not be the best candidate as a Prophus agent. And she's immediately at odds with Io's efforts to provide advice and guidance. She's focused mainly on her day-to-day needs, which meant looking out for herself and making the most of any advantage that she can get. But something big is brewing in India as the Genjix make their move to consolidate their hold on the country with Ella one of the few Prophus assets in the region.

What I Liked: While the book was a bit of a slow burn, once things really got going I really enjoyed the new dynamic that Ella brought to the mix of things. As much as Roen Tan had been a reluctant host in the beginning, he was still more of a pushover and just accepted Tao. Ella was a lot stronger and she certainly fought tooth and nail at every step of the journey of integrating Io into her life. And this made for some really interesting moments.

And Ella's life in Crate Town was already fascinating on its own even before Io pulled her into the life of intrigue of being a Prophus asset. Chu really did a great job of making Crate Town that much more real by diving into the details of things. Chu manages to explore so much of Ella's life there and we could spend more books running alongside Ella on her latest con. So major props there. Heck, Crate Town itself was a memorable and pivotal character in this book as well.

What Could Have Been Better: That said, it's hard to start from ground zero again and the joys of Ella's antagonism towards everything and everyone really dragged on things. And the later reveal of a Prophus double agent felt very left field and didn't quite get enough setup, at least for me, mainly because Ella's constant complaints and attempts to broker this or that deal on the side really took up a lot of book space.

I wasn't too keen on the Genjix side of the story either. We got some good looks at what was going on that side of the conflict but it also felt like things just weren't moving along as awesomely and wickedly as we had gotten used to in past books. Even though Shura was also an Adonis vessel, it didn't always feels like she was as awesome as she claimed to be. It's probably because we didn't see her in a lot of direct conflict situations with equals and instead we most got her beating up or intimidating Crate Town locals.

TL;DR: The Rise of Io is a nice new direction for the whole series and I'm glad that Chu is branching out in this regard. It's a new aspect to the Prophus-Genjix conflict to examine that doesn't involve a super awesome I-shaped-human-history Quasing for a nice change of pace. Thus the book gets a great 4 crazy characters of Crate Town out of a possible 5.

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