Goodreads Choice 2013 Nominee - Science Fiction
When out-of-shape IT technician Roen woke up and started hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumed he was losing it.
He now has a passenger in his brain – an ancient alien life-form called Tao, whose race crash-landed on Earth before the first fish crawled out of the oceans. Now split into two opposing factions – the peace-loving, but under-represented Prophus, and the savage, powerful Genjix – the aliens have been in a state of civil war for centuries. Both sides are searching for a way off-planet, and the Genjix will sacrifice the entire human race, if that’s what it takes.
Meanwhile, Roen is having to train to be the ultimate secret agent. Like that’s going to end up well…
File Under: Science Fiction [ The Tug of War | I Was Genghis | Diary of a Slob | Spy vs Spy ]
About the Author
Wesley Chu was born in Taiwan and emmigrated to Chicago, Illinois when he was just a pup. It was there he became a Kung Fu master and gymnast.
Wesley is an avid gamer and a contributing writer for the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. A former stunt man and a member of the Screen Actors Guild, he can also be seen in film and television playing roles such as "Banzai Chef" in Fred Claus and putting out Oscar worthy performances as a bank teller in Chicago Blackhawks commercials.
Wesley is a 2014 Alex Award winner for his book The Lives of Tao. He is a 2014 nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
Besides working as an Associate Vice President at a bank, he spends his time writing and hanging out with his wife Paula Kim and their Airedale Terrier, Eva.
Read an Excerpt
The Lives of Tao
By Wesley Chu
Angry RobotCopyright © 2013 Wesley Chu
All rights reserved.
I once wrote "Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he." The humans refer to that stronger being as God. I was referring to myself.
Huchel, Genjix Council – Eastern Hemisphere, the Quasing of King Solomon
The five most egotistical personalities in history. Go.
"That's easy. You, Genghis, Alexander, Napoleon, and Kathy's nephew."
The one at Cambridge?
"He reminds me every time I see him."
Not a bad list, but I think Genghis Khan's inclusion is well deserved.
"Patting yourself on the back? I guess listing you and Genghis is a bit redundant."
Hardly. We should move to another spot. Our view here is obstructed.
Edward Blair looked at the sandy blond-haired woman in the charcoal suit sitting across the bar. Their eyes met, and a hint of dimples appeared on her face, accompanied by a small suggestive smile as she tugged on something around her waist and signaled the bartender. "The view's just fine where we're at, Tao." Edward swirled the golden brown liquid in his glass and sipped with confidence. He kept his gaze on her and winked. He was rewarded with a wink and a slight blush before the bartender arrived and blocked his view.
We have more important things to do than play this silly game.
Edward finished his scotch and ordered another. "Oh, I forgot. We're talking about how great Genghis was. Fact is, buddy, his work has been duplicated and expanded upon, just look at Alexander. And last time I checked, Mongolia plays a pretty insignificant role on the twenty-first century world stage."
Alexander is an unfair comparison. It is easy to build an empire when you inherit an army.
"Well, by size, the old British Empire won. At least they're still around. So there you go, bigger and longer. Size and durability count after all. Ask my wife." Edward turned away from the bar and looked out the window at the dizzying array of lights emanating from the streets below, a complex grid of bright lines reaching out as far as the eye could see. The night sky was growing darker as large rolling clouds smothered the moon and the stars.
He could feel the gentle swaying on the ninety-fifth floor as strong winds battered the John Hancock Center, rocking it ever so slightly. Springtime in Chicago half a klick above the ground was unpleasant at best. "Good thing we didn't glide in," he muttered, taking another sip of scotch and feeling its warmth spread through his body. "You'd think criminal masterminds would choose more isolated bases of operations than the top of skyscrapers. What happened to the good ol' days when they lived on deserted islands in the Pacific?"
Resorts and skyrocketing beachfront property prices happened. Besides, criminal masterminds are people too. They need groceries and cable like the rest of us. It also does not let us get cute with our plans.
Edward leaned forward and his eyes followed one of the metal beams that crisscrossed the building. That much was true. Sneaking into a base on top of a skyscraper in the center of a metropolis was just as difficult as infiltrating a remote island. Security on the ground level was tight, and the weather made an air drop too risky. Short of blowing up the building, Edward had limited options in their rules of engagement other than through the Signature room on the ninety-fifth floor, one above the Genjix base. "What about Napoleon?"
What about him? He should not even be on the list.
"He was crowned emperor. That's worth something."
Anyone can bestow a title upon himself. Calling yourself a genius does not make it so.
"You call yourself a genius all the time."
By human standards? Not hard.
"Napoleon didn't do too badly for himself. You're a bit biased; you two never got along."
Almost conquering Europe does not an emperor make. He was a brilliant general, but his short tenure disqualifies him for the hall of fame.
"You're penalizing him because of his administrative skills?"
Paper-pushing is an integral part of empire ruling. Consider–
"Excuse me, sir, the general manager would like to buy you a drink," the bartender said, placing another glass of scotch onto the counter.
Edward turned back toward the bar and smiled again as the woman sitting across the room earlier moved to the seat next to him, one hand on a martini and the other extended.
"Simone," she purred. "I hope you don't mind. I ordered you an eighteen instead of the twelve."
Edward looked down at his drink and grinned. He took her hand and shook it, lingering longer than appropriate. "Blake Emanuel. I'll have to return the favor in some other way." The two chatted intimately for the next twenty minutes, moving closer and closer together.
Edward, I hate to ruin your sport, but our window is closing. The codes expire in two days, and we are not getting anywhere here. I regret not insisting on gliding in.
"In this weather? You must have more faith in my flying skills than I do. Now, keep quiet and let me focus on Simone here. I need to keep my architect story straight."
Twenty years together now and you are still incorrigible.
"Intergalactic civil war wasn't exactly on my career track out of West Point, Tao."
Wish I never found you?
"You know the answer to that."
His earpiece crackled. "Abelard, are you in position?"
"That's cute. Remind me to have a few words with Marc about these dumb code names when I get back."
I find it fitting. Quite a compliment actually.
"Things didn't exactly end well for Abelard and Heloise, if I remember how that tragedy went. I hate it when he listens in."
It is Jeo's nature. Marc just picked up the habit.
Smiling all the while, Edward excused himself and left Simone at the bar, walking to the back of the lounge toward the restrooms. He waited until he was alone in the hallway before entering a door marked "Personnel Only." In the kitchen, he hurried past the workers before they had a chance to stop him and exited through another door into a back room. "Roger, Marc. Stand by." He pulled out a set of keys attached to a band and began to try them on the locked door.
How did you know she was the manager with the keys?
"They were dangling on her waist, and she was far too authoritative with the bartender."
Clever, Edward. I stand corrected.
"Twenty years together, Tao. Have a little faith."
The door clicked open and Edward sprinted through a barren hallway past a bank of elevators on one side to the stairwell on the other. He hurried down several flights to a non-descript metal door. He slipped on a pair of thin black gloves and broke a small vial over the handle. Edward watched the corrosive acid burn through the lock and whispered, "Marc, green to proceed. How's it looking topside?"
"It's bumpy up here, but we're taking a nice scenic tour of the skyline. Rendezvous on the roof at your go. You have one shot at this, so make it count."
"Evac 0100. Don't be late."
"Acknowledged, Abelard. Over and out."
"Tao, you keeping track of the time?"
As always, I am your alarm clock.
"Is something up with Marc? Past couple of missions, he seemed ambivalent about everything. Like the time we guarded the Spanish prime minister, I don't think Marc cared if the man died."
That is Jeo for you. He hates this planet more than the rest of us, but I have known him for a long time. He has always been reliable.
"You hate Earth, Tao?"
You have to put it in perspective to where we came from. Kind of like visiting your tax accountant.
"Got it. Still, I wish he wasn't such a downer." Edward caught the handle as it burned off and placed it on the floor. He opened the door a sliver and scanned the area inside. Dark Brazilian wood floors, antique lamps, and plush Victorian furniture decorated both sides of a long hallway. Books filled rows of shelves on one wall; a large polished marble bust of Plato was prominently displayed between two elevator doors. "Did we get the right floor?"
I believe so. Chiyva's fingerprints are all over it. How typical of him to have a bust of himself. And I see his taste has not changed much since the nineteenth century.
Staying flat to the wall, Edward crept to the end of the corridor and peered around the corner.
Two guards to the right side. Surveillance camera moving at twenty-second sweeps in the corner.
"Twenty seconds, huh? Not a lot of room for error. Gun?"
No, keep it quiet. No need to raise a fuss yet. Camera is moving now. Go!
Pulling out a knife from its holster, Edward exhaled, rounded the corner, and took off running. Hugging the right wall, he stayed low, covering ground quickly as he charged the two unsuspecting men. Once in range, he shifted to the left wall for a better angle and, with a flick of his wrist, threw the knife. It whistled as it shot past the first guard and into the neck of the second. The man gasped and went limp. The remaining guard turned to look at his fallen companion just as Edward closed in and rammed his fist into the man's ribcage.
Fifteen seconds on the camera.
The guard doubled over as Edward grabbed his head and snapped his neck. Before the body had fallen to the floor, Edward had already moved to the other body and pulled out his knife.
Not bad for a forty year-old dog.
"Like I said, durability counts."
Touché. Get the bodies in. Ten seconds on the camera.
Edward took out a modified keycard, slid it through the electronic lock, and opened it with a soft click. He dragged the bodies with him into a darkened room filled with rows of computers. The room was cool and hummed with a low resonance from dozens of machines and a loud ventilation shaft. "Did the camera catch anything?"
Two seconds and change. The mark is Trixlix GeTr715.
Edward's eyes ran down the list of servers until he found GeTr715 tucked near the rear of the third row on the bottom rack. "Hello, mark," he whispered in satisfaction. "Let's see if you're worth leaving Simone upstairs." Edward pulled out a small cable from his belt and plugged it into the server. "Codes accepted. Starting extraction now." The monitor above the server blinked to life, and Edward's fingers blurred as he typed, digging for the information he needed. His trained eyes jumped from directory to directory, grabbing bits and pieces of different files. "It seems the rumors about this fabled Penetra program are true. It does exist."
Edward went into the folder and opened the files inside. "Hmm," he paused, shaking his head. "My secretary can organize information better than this."
Worry about their formatting skills another time. Copy the blueprints and get out of here.
Edward's eyes widened as he scanned the contents. "Found the blueprints, but look at this provisions list and these chemical stockpiles. I thought this was a surveillance prototype. Could it be a biological weapon? How are they getting past customs? I wish we had lobbyists this good. Initiating upload. Wait, backup access control list just tripped. We're getting kicked out."
The security file probably just alerted a platoon of guards. Get what we have and go.
His earpiece crackled, "Edward, we've just confirmed the data stream. On our way to pick you up now."
"Confirmed. Over and out." Edward unplugged the cord and scrambled toward the exit. Hearing heavy footsteps, he stopped and retreated back to the rows of servers just as a group of guards entered the room.
No armor. 1911s by the looks of it. Laser scopes. Three, no, four guards. None appear to be Genjix.
"Must be the hired help."
Take them out fast.
One of the guards turned on the lights and the rest fanned out, each moving from aisle to aisle. Shouts of "Clear!" could be heard as they made their way toward him. Edward pulled out his Glock pistol and crept toward the edge of an aisle. As an arm came into view, he trapped it with one hand and threw his elbow into the guard's face, dropping him to the floor. The scuffle alerted the others and they converged on his position.
Another guard appeared at the other end of the aisle and opened fire. Bullets ricocheted off the metal frames of the shelves. A searing pain erupted in Edward's left arm and his hand went numb. Falling flat to the floor, he took quick aim and finished his target with three quick shots to the chest.
Grazing shot. Shake it off. Get to the extraction point!
Edward reloaded the Glock and ran out to the hallway. Sirens blared all around him. He sprinted back toward the stairwell, hearing sounds of approaching footsteps close behind. He burst through the door and ran up the stairs. A group of guards soon followed close behind. Bullets flying past his head, Edward craned his neck over the railing, grabbed a grenade from his side, pushed the timer for one second, and tossed it over the railing. The resulting explosion knocked him off his feet and everything went dark for a split second. Water sprinklers activated and began to spray the room. Shaking his head to clear the cobwebs, Edward pulled himself up and continued up the stairs.
"I'm getting too old for this."
What happened to "durability counts"? We can worry about putting you out to pasture after this mission.
Another group of guards appeared two flights above him and opened fire. Edward threw himself against the wall just as gunfire rained down upon him. "Get me another way up to the top."
Through the door. Get to the roof from the other stairwell.
Marc's voice came through the earpiece so loud Edward winced. "We've landed on the roof. Resistance heavier than anticipated. Hurry!"
"I'm working on it!" Edward yelled as he burst through the door out of the stairwell and came face to face with an attractive young woman. She wore an expensive tan suit and had her hair tied in a high ponytail. If it was any other time, he would stop and try to chat her up. But it wasn't any other time. He grabbed her and jammed the Glock into her side. "Sorry, darling, this probably isn't the best way to make a first impression."
It is Yrrika.
Edward sighed. "Really? Yrrika always picks the pretty ones." Without hesitation, he pulled the trigger. She had only a moment to gasp before falling to the floor. Her body shimmered as the Genjix emerged and floated into the air.
Let us hope Yrrika does not find a new host in time. Down to the end of the hallway, make a right, third door on the left.
"Do you remember the time I tried to pick up Yrrika's previous host?"
In Istanbul? I warned you not to. You were a fresh twenty-five year-old agent and she was sixty. How did that work out for you?
"You could have told me she was a judo champion."
She was not. You just were not that good back then. Some of the hardest lessons are the best.
Edward took off running. The alarm was getting on his nerves and he heard footsteps all around him. There was no telling how many other Genjix hosts were here. He sprinted down the hall to the other stairwell and scrambled up to the roof. With the amount of heat behind him, Marc better be ready to take off any second. Edward slammed his body into the exterior door and barreled onto the rooftop. Losing his balance, he tumbled forward and rolled into a kneeling position, pistol trained forward.
The roof of the John Hancock Center in Chicago was a mess of black shadows and cluttered metal structures bathed in ghostly red by lights from its two towering antennas. To his left was a row of large fans; in front a set of stairs that led up to another platform; and to his right the helicopter. Cold winds howled overhead. Edward stayed low and made his way toward his ride home, slipping from shadow to shadow.
Where are the other agents and why is the helicopter not prepped to leave? Something is wrong.
Edward ran to the cockpit and found two of his agents slumped over the controls. One more was dead outside. The windshield was shattered, the cockpit smashed, and a small fire raged in the holding area.
Is it operable?
"Of course not, there's no cockpit anymore! Let's see if the emergency chute's still there."
Fortunately, the compartment in the rear housing the parachutes was intact. He strapped on a chute, tied it around his waist, and checked the release.
Excerpted from The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu. Copyright © 2013 Wesley Chu. Excerpted by permission of Angry Robot.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
“Just your usual “I’ve got an immensely wise alien in my head who wants me to become an international man of mystery” story. Which is to say, Page-turning homage to other classic SF like Hal Clement’s Needle. Recommended.”
-Steven Gould, author of the Jumper series
"Filled with non-stop action and brilliant asides on the history of our species, the book is sure to thrill and amuse."
- Ken Liu, Nebula Award winning author of The Paper Menagerie
“Tipping his hat to both science fiction novels and comic books, Chu delivers a narrative that is at times pulse-pounding, laugh-out-loud funny and thoughtful.
Part James Bond, part Superman, part Orphanage. There’s something here for everyone.”
- Myke Cole, author of Control Point and Fortress Frontier
"Wesley Chu is my hero... he has to be the coolest science fiction writer in the world."
- Lavie Tidhar, World Fantasy Award winning author of Osama and The Bookman Histories.
"In The Lives of Tao, newcomer Wesley Chu delivers an action-laced sci fi thriller filled with clever ideas and witty, engaging characters. A thoroughly enjoyable ride."
- John Marco, Author of The Inhumans and The Tyrants And Kings trilogies
"One part Deep Space Nine, three parts Babylon Five, and two parts Chuck."
- Gini Koch, author of the Alien/Katherine "Kitty" Katt series
"A fast-paced, high-action SF mix of Jason Bourne meets the Hero's Journey, jam-packed with dark conspiracies, wild romance, ancient aliens, and a secret, globe-spanning war. Loved it!"
- Matt Forbeck, author of Amortals and Hard Times in Dragon City
Tell us a little about you.
Hello, this is Wesley Chu. I'm a member of the Screen Actors Guild and a former stuntman specializing in being token Asian dude. What's the token Asian you ask? Next time you watch a commercial, check out the group makeup. There's the token black dude, token white, token Latino, and yes, token me dude. Some of them might occupy other minor roles simultaneously such as token fat, token bald, token hunk-you-want-to-take-home-to-mom among others. I never get to be that guy.
Oh yeah, I wrote a book. My debut novel, The Lives of Tao published by Angry Robot Books, is out now. The sequel, The Deaths of Tao, is dropping Oct 29th, 2013.
In one sentence, what you is your book about?
The Lives of Tao is a modern day sci-fi about an overweight loser who is inhabited by an ancient alien, and is drafted, kicking and screaming, to train and fight a war over control of humanity's evolution. And cake. Okay, fine, the cake is a lie.
What's the twitter pitch?
Fat loser meets snarky alien. Gets in shape. Fights war over control of humanity's evolution. Gets a girlfriend. Not in order of importance.
What made you want to become a writer?
I think most writers can't help but write. It was something inherent that I gravitated toward as a kid. I mean, let's face it; if I could choose my natural talent, it wouldn't be writing. I'd pick something like punting and have the best job in the world. Yes, the NFL punter is the best job in the entire frigging world. You're part of a professional football team; that's cool, right? No one is allowed to hit you, and no one ever expects you to win the game. I mean come on, what could possibly be better than that? But writing, not incredible leg strength or genius intellect or incredible good looks, was what the muses doled out to me.
I wanted to be a writer ever since I read The 101 Dalmatians once a day every day for an entire summer. I realized I might have had a smidgeon of talent for it when English Professor Father read my first short story. It was about the planets in the solar system constantly running into each other and getting into fist fights, which explained why they all have pock marks over their surfaces. Then the King Sun got annoyed and enforced gravity upon them. English Professor Father read it and said "this doesn't suck." And thus a career was born.
Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?
Write for yourself, not for the money or fame. The odds are slim you'll get much of either. It's a long road filled with potholes and road kill. Keep at it. Don't ever show anyone your first draft. Keep reading books as you write.
Don't lose touch with your friends. I lost touch with many of them while writing The Lives of Tao. People got married, moved to the suburbs, had kids...etc...One day, I walked out of the house and the world had changed. Everyone' was using this damn thing called an iPhone, and Terrell Owens was playing for the Cowboys. Whaaaa?
And get a dog or cat. Trust me on that last one. Eva Da Terrordale dragging me out for walks was the only thing that got my increasingly pasty white arse to see the sun once in a while.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It appears that despite every sane person laugh at him, the man with the crazy hair, Giorgio A. Tsoukalos of History Channel's Ancient Aliens, was right all along...the course of human history was really steered along by aliens! The Lives of Tao manages to tell a very entertaining tale in which there is an ongoing, centuries long war between 2 opposing factions of an alien race that has been living on earth. One of which cares about humans and are obviously the 'good guys' and a more hardline faction that primarily is only concerned about their own race and doesn't care about any negative impact to humanity. Conventional logic would have you think an advanced alien race that can make it all the way to earth would have no problems living here, but as it turns out their big Achille's heel is that they cannot survive here on Earth without living inside a host body. This host usually ends up being a human being, and the alien symbiote can communicate with their human host as a voice in their head and attempt to influence their decision making. And as it turns out, most of the famous historical figures in human history were also hosts to aliens. In addition to the scifi and action aspects of the book, Wesley Chu manages to create a main character, Roen Tan, which you find very human and believably 'average' at first vs the many stories where the hero is always some lethal, man-killing weapon who is the object of lust for every straight female he crosses paths with. Roen is basically what many would characterize as a stereotype overweight, out of shape computer geek, loser without much going on in his life at least until Tao the alien ends up having to take on Roen as his human host. Now guided by a centuries wise Tao, Roen must transform into an actual agent that can fight for the good guys. But poor Roen...the baddies want to kill Tao, which means they need to kill Roen. So Roen basically has no choice but train now. I don't want to say its a story partly about his coming of age, but more of a forced late bloomer, Men in Black secret 007 agent walking along railroad tracks with the Stand by Me from Ben E. King playing in the background. Once you read the book, you'll know what I'm talking about. As an extra benefit of having a super James Bond alien in your head, Roen may even grow the balls to talk to women! I think there are probably many guys out there that would pay to have a coach like that in their head for that function alone. The bromance between Roen and Tao starts up slow, but you can see it developing fuller along the way. Some of Tao's wise ass comments to Roen made me laugh. OVerall, I really enjoyed being there for all the failures, successes, and hilarious moments... and there are many...in Roen's journey to transform himself into the improved Roen, along with flipping page after page to find out who will be winning this age old war and the impact on humanity. I won't say too much else about the story so it doesn't spoil it for people who haven't read it yet. The Lives of Tao is highly recommended.
An awesome twist on every conspiracy theory out there, with mirth and wit. I found this book difficult to put down and cannot wait for the next one.
What do you get when you have an out-of shape, pathetic IT guy whose life is stuck in a rut, and throw in symbiotic aliens who have been on earth since prehistoric times and are currently using humanity to wage civil war against one another? You get one action-packed thrill ride! Seriously, The Lives of Tao is a fast-paced, awesome read, with equal parts of alien intrigue, action, and humor, not to mention some tender moments as well. So what are you waiting for? Trust me, you won't be disappointed!
This book was on sale so I took a chance and it paid off. This was a really good, fun read for me. I like readable stories and this one kept moving along with humor and action. I liked the premise of the story and could see this developed as a motion picture or T.V. show. Easily could see this developed as a comic book as well (hint hint). Well done Mr. Chu. I am now going to go get the sequel, which I just found out existed.
A Couple's Review Afterglow by Bill: Using the combination of action from a James Bond movie and the dialogue of an Adam Sandler movie, Lives of Tao is one of the most unique spy books you will ever read in your life. The book tells the story of a man named Roen who never thought much of his life until an alien named Tao takes over his body after Tao's previous host dies during a mission. The rest of the book shows the conflict between Roen and the voice in his head (Tao) who gives him the direction and the confidence to better his life and condition himself to become a spy in the fight to safe the human race. The dialogue between Roen and Tao, which sometimes can turn serious, is mostly funny as they bicker with one another, as Roen complains about how he will never be a good agent and Tao, who continues to tell about all the men through human history that he was actually controlling. The book contains action when you least expect it and an ending that you would never see coming. Afterglow by Katrina: A perfect date book! Action, comedy, romance, cool factor. Bill and I read this one together over the course of a month. Though we tried to pace ourselves, by the end we couldn't put it down. In my mind, Roen Tan is Kung Fu Panda, all gooey and lovably funny throughout. There's a stark difference between his first attempts at training and the missions he executes near the end. His personal transformation is incredible, yet believable. The Lives of Tao is science fiction, but I'm seeing it called a mash-up because it reads a little like a spy thriller in parts. My favorite part, though, is what you can easily see in the synopsis: the funny. Whether it's trying to escape a bar fight unscathed by his best friend's arm candy, or watching alien Tao maneuver a large, sleeping human Roen around the living room, the visual comedy is sublime. As Bill mentioned, the dialogue happening inside Roen's brain is also a treat to overhear. You'll end the book wishing you had a wise (and wise-cracking) alien like Tao in your head. Who should read it? Teens to adults who like spies, which is pretty much everyone, right?
‘The Lives of Tao’ is a mile a minute adventure full of action and tons of witty one liners that had me laughing out loud on several occasions. This book is so well thought out it that it can work in events that happened millions of years ago and make you think how they could all be connected by these aliens. The characters are fun and each make their mark on the story in their own way. I can’t wait to move on in the series!
I will give you a quick run down of what it is about (with no spoilers) below. First, I want to say what was the most enjoyable for me were the characters. I liked them. I rooted for Roen. I cared! There is a lot to say about that feeling when it comes to Sci-fi, it is at times overlooked. Someone being badass is great but if they aren't real, well, then why do I care? I loved the relationships, the vulnerability and the human experience explored. It might feature aliens, but it has quite a bit of human experience in its heart. Science fiction is a genre that is liable to take you just about anywhere. The Lives of Tao is very unique. Before the evolution of man an alien form became stranded on Earth. They found a way to 'inhabit' animals and eventually man. When they inhabited a human they were able to communicate with it. Think of it like another personality, a guiding voice with intellect, experience and advanced technology capabilities. Throughout history these aliens inhabited some of the most influential of humans (Presidents, rulers, scientists, explorers) The aliens themselves divided into two factions - ones that believed they should rule humans and those that believed they should work with them. The factions are at war and the fate of the human race is at stake. That is your setting. The book opens with a human operative that is killed. The aliens, once inside a human, cannot leave until the human dies. Once the human dies they are in a very vulnerable state and must find another host quickly. Tao finds Roen, an overweight, desk jockey with a low self esteem and very little drive. Roen's journey with Tao's lead is a believable one (as far as you can accept he has an alien in his head) It isn't easy for him to give up pizza and start jogging! (I can relate to that I have dreamt of running that marathon and dreaming is as far as I've gotten so far) Roen's journey is funny and endearing. I loved Sonya, who was raised to be a host for the Prophus. Her mother was a host so she had the distinct advantage of knowing what she was getting into, she is also badass and kicks Roen's butt! She becomes his trainer for the ops missions he will soon be sent on and they develop a friendship. It this kind of science fiction interests you , this is your book. It's not overly technical, bogged down with terms you won't understand ( I don't like that kind of sci-fi). I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that the relationships Roen builds were some of the highlights of the book for me. He is a good person, with the same flaws and fears as anyone and how he deals with them and overcomes them is really inspiring.
Spies, aliens, martial arts....everything that makes a great sci-fi novel. I really liked how Tao would begin every chapter with an excerpt of past hosts he has inhabited throughout mankind's history. The friendship that Roen and Tao share seems very genuine.
I found this original well written book hard put down
Overweight, unambitious guy named Roen accidentally gets inhabited by a symbiotic alien that changes his life completely. Thrust into a thousands year old conflict between these aliens, Roen must become a secret agent in short order and help save the world. Very interesting and engaging concept. The banter between the alien, Tao, and his host, Roen, is fun and well written. A few clichés, but overall a fun, well-paced, action thriller.
324 pages. I'm relatively new to sci fi, so perhaps the inhabited-by-benign-aliens is not novel to anyone ese. Whatever. But i found it enjoyable. Annoying that the fight scenes sounded more like a movie climax than a book, however.
Nothing we haven't seen before, but the author does such a nice job with it that it doesn't matter. If there is any justice in this world, someone will turn this into a television series.
Lives of Tao has been out and praised by readers for a few years, winning the ALA Alex Award in 2014. Many have compared Lives of Tao to the TV show Chuck because it is also a light hearted tale of an unlikely hero given super spy powers. Where Lives of Tao is different is our main character Roen is given his new powers via an alien entity that enters his body. These aliens have been here for millennia, influencing humanity via their hosts in a war under the surface of what most humans are aware of. Roen is an out of shape computer programmer when his alien, Tao, enters his body. The changes in his life as he gets in shape and meets a girl added a nice emotional touch to the story. Roen hates his job, has no self-confidence and no direction in life. Tao has been around for millennia and has learned from some great warriors like one of his hosts, Genghis Khan, as well as having created Tai Chi. This no doubt forces Roen to grow up fast or give up on his potential for greatness. Roen’s struggle to embrace his potential and put the work in to achieve it was my favorite aspect of this story. In the midst of this scifi thriller is a story that many can relate with, the question of how to escape a career and lifestyle that does not fulfill and yet seems so impossible to break away from. Easing our experience through this tough, serious reality is the fantasy element of escaping through Roen’s super cool circumstance of symbiosis with a wise alien. And then on top of that you have the spy action as he moves up the ranks and goes toe-to-toe with some of the worst aliens on the planet. Lives of Tao exceeded my expectations. I didn’t know beforehand if this would be a good fit for my reading mood, but the combination of relatable and likable character in Roen with the deep but not overwhelming worldbuilding in the secret alien war and finally the cool spy action all made this one of my new favorite series. I hear it keeps getting better, so I’m excited for continuing on with The Deaths of Tao and The Rebirths of Tao. I enjoyed the audiobook narration so much, I’d really like to continue in that format. Some audiobooks have too many characters and prose that is unclear to follow, but the narration by Mikael Naramore added enough distinction to the voices to imprint the characters and kept the story going with excitement so that I didn’t daydream and lose my place. There were parts that were less exciting than the interest built in the beginning, but there were also some high tension conflict moments in the end that showed Mr. Chu knows where to hit his characters so you feel them hurt. So, there’s room for improvement, but as a debut novel in a series that I hear improves by leaps and bounds, Lives of Tao gets a strong recommendation for readers within and outside the genre.
((Sorry dude. Dx l'ma just pick it up.)) "That'd be amazing." Scar tapped her chin. "What's the going rate for one of these machines?"
He plagiarized Brian Stableford for the story idea, sorry.
Poor characters, poor story. Not worth the money if it was free.