It’s rare to find a sci-fi series that’s funny while still being a nail-biting fast-action thriller. Somehow award-winning author Wesley Chu has beautifully achieved that delicate balancing act with his Tao trilogy. We reviewed Books #1 and #2, The Lives of Tao and The Deaths of Tao, when they were published. I loved the first two novels and could hardly wait to dig into Book #3, The Rebirths of Tao. If you’re a sci-fi fan who hasn’t read the first two novels in this trilogy, you’re in for a treat. You’ll find links to my reviews of the first two novels at the bottom of this review.
The thorny question is always whether a series novel can be read as a stand-alone that not only makes sense but will be fulfilling. I really do think you need to read this one in order, particularly since it’s supposedly the last book in the series (although after reading it, I’m not sure about that). I believe sci-fi series in particular need to build chronologically because there’s a lot of world building that might not make sense if you jump into the middle. That said, I leave it up to you to decide. If you want to avoid spoilers, just click here to read my review of the first novel, The Lives of Tao, and don’t read the rest of this review. A link to its review and Book #2’s review also appear at the bottom of this review.
A little background: The Quasling botched up their own planet so they’ve been traveling around the universe taking over other planets, as if they’d somehow eventually get it right if they kept trying the same old thing over and over again. They eventually ended up on Earth when it was in its infancy stages and they’ve been here ever since, shaping humans as they evolved and basically meddling in everything. It didn’t take them too many centuries to split into two factions: 1), the Genjix, who see humans as purely a means to an end; and 2), the Prophus, who have gradually developed a more caring and humane (no pun intended) attitude toward humans. Oh, and did I mention the Quasling are residing inside of humans? Not as icky as it sounds – weird but not too icky. When bumbling computer nerd Roen becomes “infected” with an ancient and wise Prophus named Tao, and has to learn super fast how to become a 007 style spy (and good luck with that), this series begins.
When I reached the end of The Deaths of Tao, I found myself wondering how there could be a Book #3 yet so much was not resolved for me in the story. Agh. Needless to say I got very anxious for Wesley Chu to get the next book written and in my hands. I hate leaving the characters I’ve grown close to up in the air like that – and Roen and his family are characters who have become like old friends. I was also sure the villainous Genjix would be up to all kinds of no good while my back was turned. I was counting on the author to keep them in check for me.
A lot of time elapses between the end of The Deaths of Tao and the beginning of The Rebirths of Tao, which is a good thing because it lets some of the dust settle from the rather dramatic ending in Book #2. That said, the world is in even worse shape and, in their megalomania, the Genjix are completely out of control. In addition, the world is basically picking sides and it looks like they might pick the wrong side out of ignorance – or just try to destroy all Quasling out of xenophobic fear, and that would be completely disastrous for the planet and all of its inhabitants. Roen and his family believe the only hope for mankind is for them and the Quasling to learn to somehow live together without destroying each other.
The only wee small problem is that certain human elements and the powerful Genjix aren’t the slightest bit interested in that. And if the Genjix can’t be stopped, the planet and its inhabitants will soon be altered beyond the point of no return. When a Genjix scientist defects and seeks shelter with the Prophus safe house Roen and his wife run on the West Coast of the U.S., it looks like the beleaguered Prophus group might have been handed their best chance at everyone coming out of this rapidly deteriorating situation alive. But is it what it appears to be or has Prophus just let a very nasty fox into their henhouse?
Wesley Chu has achieved something pretty incredible with the Tao series. On the surface it reads like a combo sci-fi thriller and comic action adventure, coupled with lots of fun snarky humor. That humor is provided not just by its bumbling human reluctant hero but also by the acerbic wit of Tao, the alien who’s taken up residence inside of him. For that reason alone, it makes for one hell of a read. What makes it so wonderful though is that underneath that surface is a progressive set of layers. One layer is a very perceptive look at human nature, our repetitive history, and our evolution or lack thereof as a species. Another layer is about personal relationships and what makes us who we are as individuals and as a species. It’s like peeling back an onion, and that lifts this novel beyond a simple fun-to-read story. I absolutely recommend this series for sci-fi fans or even for fans of spy and action-adventure novels who don’t mind an alien element.
FYI: As I reached the end of The Rebirths of Tao, I found myself questioning whether it really is the end of the series, because doors seem to have been left open for further exploration. Hmmm…
Can’t wait to read it?
The Rebirths of Tao was published in the UK on April2, 2015 and in the US on April 7, 2015, so it and the other two novels in this trilogy are all available in all formats now from your favorite online or local bookseller.
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