Between winning awards and announcing high-profile book deals, it’s a wonder Wesley Chu actually finds time to write. And yet he’s releasing two major new sci-fi novels in 2016: Time Siege, sequel to his 2015 temporal thriller Time Salvager (soon to be a major motion picture!), and, more immediately relevant, The Rise of Io, the first in a new series set in the same world as his breakthrough Tao trilogy.
Publisher Angry Robot (who scooped up Chu during one of its vaunted “open door” submission periods a few years back) has given us the go-ahead to show off the cover art for The Rise of Io, featuring the work of the always eye-catching Tommy Arnold. It offers a tantalizing glimpse of our new heroine, Ella, and suggests that these books will be an altogether different experience from the Tao books. Take a look at the full image following the publisher’s blurb, and read on for an interview with Wesley Chu, who reveals why he wasn’t able to leave this universe quite yet.
Ella Patel—thief, con-artist and smuggler—is in the wrong place at the wrong time. One night, on the border of a demilitarized zone run by the body-swapping alien invaders, she happens upon a man and woman being chased by a group of assailants. The man freezes, leaving the woman to fight off five attackers at once, before succumbing. As she dies, to both Ella and the man’s surprise, the sparkling light that rises from the woman enters Ella, instead of the man. She soon realizes she’s been inhabited by Io, a low-ranking Quasing who was involved in some of the worst decisions in history. Now Ella must now help the alien presence to complete her mission and investigate a rash of murders in the border states that maintain the frail peace.
With the Prophus assigned to help her seemingly wanting to stab her in the back, and the enemy Genjix hunting her, Ella must also deal with Io’s annoying inferiority complex. To top it all off, Ella thinks the damn alien voice in her head is trying to get her killed. And if you can’t trust the voices in your head, who can you trust?
And now, a bit from Mr. Chu himself…
After three books, we thought we were done with the Tao universe. Did you? When did you realize there was more story to tell?
I remember writing the The Rebirths of Tao’s epilogue and getting a little melancholy. Roen will forever be my firstborn, and I love him like I love Eva, and people who follow me on Twitter know I Dean Koontz-level love my dog. But I feel like I left him in a good place.
If you think about it, the guy had something like a thirty-five year arc in the trilogy. That’s a solid run. I’ve put him through the ringer more times than I could count. Not gonna lie; I get a really weird joy out of kicking his ass.
Way I figure, the dude deserves a break, his pizza, and an occasional cameo to yell at the kids to get off his lawn. Same with Tao. I think I explored their relationship to the fullest. It’s time to see what the other Quasing are up to.
As for realizing I had more stories to tell, the original book two for the Tao series was The Lives of Baji. That obviously never happened, but I have always wanted to continue the story from another Quasing’s point of view.
I’m really sorry that point of view ended up being Io. Oops.
What sets the Io books apart from the Tao trilogy?
Roen is by far my readers’ favorite character. He’s lovable, honest, clumsy, and sometimes dumb as a cardboard box. You never question his heart, though. He’s a solid guy who loves his family and always wants to do the right thing.
Ella? Well, she’s not Roen. She’s a badass, scrappy, snarky con-woman who is morally flexible. She couldn’t care less about doing the right thing. but she has her own code of street honor. She also hates being told what to do. I think my readers will love Ella just as much as they love Roen, but for completely different reasons.
As for Tao and Io, they’re both jerks, but they’re different flavors of jerk.
How far have you progressed into planning what happens in this trilogy?
Somewhere deep in the Chu Vault is a four-page laminated master plan detailing the entire Io trilogy, and one of the entire series (yes, I know how this entire shebang ends). If it’s anything like the Chu outline process, it will probably jump the shark somewhere in the middle of book two. Wait, I just re-read the master plan, and I’ve already jumped the shark, but yes, it is all completely planned out.
I’m pretty sure I’ll get to that ending, somehow. There’s a reason why The Rise of Io goes all the way up to Outline 8.3.
What’s your favorite part of the Tao/Io universe to write about?
This one’s easy. The Tao/Io books are all about the characters and their relationships: Roen and Tao. Enzo and Zoras, Cameron and Tao, Ella and Io etc.…
The plot, the action, and the humor are all great, but at the end of the day, the Tao and Io books are character driven SF thrillers that explore the bond between a host and their alien, and how much they can screw things up or rise beyond expectations if put in an awful situation and given the proper motivation.
Since we last talked, you won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. How does it feel to be incredibly famous?
Here’s the best part about being famous. I now get to do everything in my bathrobe and people will just think I’m famous and eccentric instead of calling 911. The other day, I couldn’t be bothered with putting on pants so I walked Eva around the block in my bathrobe. My neighbors just rolled their eyes and shook their heads, and then didn’t invite me to the neighborhood block party. That’s because I’m famous.