Instead, he has a passenger in his head – Tao. Tao is one of an ancient race of aliens who landed on Earth millions of years ago. Now split into two opposing factions – the Genjix and the Prophus, the aliens have waged war on each other for centuries as they search for a way off planet. The Genjix are willing to sacrifice the human race to do so.
And it’s up with Roen and Tao to stop them.
Thus, we have The Lives of Tao, the debut novel of Wesley Chu.
The concept of symbiotic relationships is not exactly new in sci-fi. Without proper care, such a story could turn cliche but Chu avoids this by throwing us Roen. Roen doesn’t immediately become a super agent. He has to work for it and in his case, the obstacles are rather enormous. He lacks self-confidence, he’s out of shape, and he has no natural spy skills whatsoever.
Even Tao, who has occupied the likes of Genghis Khan, invented forms of martial arts, and seen to the rise and fall of dynasties and kingdoms, can only do so much. That’s when Roen has to step up and become the hero.
The growth of Roen and the challenges that he has to take on are what keep the pages turning. So much is counting on him. The prospect of death aside, Roen has to figure out how to deal with the weight that is thrust onto his shoulders, and the mental impact of that takes its toll rather rapidly. It’s one thing to dream of being a super-spy. It’s another to become one.
Throughout the story, Tao also tells Roen about his past lives and their impact on the world. As we quickly learn, not all of Tao’s decisions have been the best for mankind despite his intentions. Roen is forced to take a step back and look at every decision not for the here and now but the long term.
As a novel, The Lives of Tao is a super-hero, science fiction, alien contact, and spy thriller all wrapped into one. It’s also funny and thrilling with a touch of a buddy comedy thrown in. I got hooked right away and when all was said and done, I can safely declare it as my favorite novel of 2013 so far.
There’s a lot more to the universe beyond the novel and I suspect we’ll see more as a sequel is already planned (entitled The Deaths of Tao).
Author: Wesley Chu