Book Review: The Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 3 of Tao
Publisher: Angry Robot (April 7, 2015)
Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a way to end things. Hands down, The Rebirths of Tao is my favorite book of the trilogy. It’s everything that made the first two books such a joy to read, but on steroids. The stakes are higher, and the action is more intense. The humor is laugh-out-loud funny, the character relationships much more emotional. It’s got love and betrayal, smiles and tears, politics and espionage, sword fights, kung-fu, unlikely heroes, dastardly villains, aliens, starry-eyed teenagers, Brits who love bacon, and much, much more. Now that’s what I’m talking about.
Just like how there were several years between the first and second books, we once again we jump ahead in time for book three, catching up with the Tans many years since the events at the end of The Deaths of Tao. In spite of this, Rebirths is not a book you can read on its own; you will miss too much information from the previous two novels. So if you’re thinking of starting the series, you may wish to skip to the bottom of this review to see my general thoughts and avoid spoilers for books one and two.
The stage is now set for all out open conflict between the two Quasing factions, the Prophus and the Genjix, and thanks to Jill Tan’s involvement in the Great Betrayal, the whole world is now aware that aliens have walked among them, manipulating history since time eternal. Humanity is understandably not too happy about that. Jill, Roen and their son Cameron have been on the run for years, hiding from anti-Quasing governments and Genjix agents alike.
But now the Genjix are stepping up their plans to terraform the earth, a process that would destroy the planet and make it uninhabitable for all life except the Quasing. The Prophus in turn are trying to prevent this from happening, securing the extraction of a rogue Genjix scientist with knowledge of these terraforming facilities. However, the Genjix have no intention of failing. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, you have all the makings of a perfect storm.
One thing I noticed from reading this series is that Wesley Chu has grown as an author with every book, and The Rebirths of Tao is his best work yet. The writing is noticeably more polished than in the previous novels, and the story flowed very well with absolutely no lulls at all. It’s also fascinating to see the series evolve, as we’ve experienced some drastic changes from book one to book three. We started The Lives of Tao with a quirky personal tale about a nerdy, out-of-shape IT guy and his transformation into super-secret agent, but things took a more urgent, direr turn in the sequel The Deaths of Tao, which also saw the Quasing conflict expanded onto a global scale.
The Rebirths of Tao is once again a new kind of story all together, but it retains a lot of the elements which made the first book so fun and addictive. The Quasing war situation is as bleak as ever for Roen and his family, and yet the humor is alive and well. Cameron Tan is now fifteen years old so for the first time in this series we have a teenager’s point-of-view, and Wesley Chu pulls it off nicely (ever think of writing YA, Mr. Chu?) I didn’t think it was possible, but I liked reading Tao and Cameron’s interactions even more than I enjoyed Tao and Roen’s. Tao is the “third parent” in this scenario and some of his reactions to the thoughts and behaviors of an impulsive, hormonal teenaged boy are downright hilarious! The dialogue in this book is probably my favorite aspect, especially the banter between Cam and Tao, between Jill and Roen, between Roen and his “imaginary Tao”, and between Roen and Marco (these two guys damn nearly killed me with laughter).
I also love sci-fi novels about unconventional aliens, and the Quasings fit the bill with their unique physiology and complex symbiosis with human beings. We know from the first two books why the Quasing split into two factions, and the assumption is that the Prophus are the benevolent, peace-loving ones. The truth is more complicated than that, however, and it may surprise you. This book delves further into the nature of Quasings, as well as the role human history played in shaping the Prophus-Genjix war. Speaking of which, if you’re a history buff, you’ll really get a kick out of these books; Chu still regularly makes references to historical events that Quasings have secretly taken part in, as well as famous figures who have served as hosts.
I’ve enjoyed every moment of this trilogy, and as a reader it’s also awesome to see a series that ends even more strongly than it began. The author has done a great job building upon the story since the first book. We’ve also seen fantastic character development particularly when it comes to Roen, who has grown immensely as a person from when we first met him. Sure, he’ll never reach Adonis Vessel levels of excellence, but he’s taken his new responsibilities in stride and has never failed to do the best he can as a Prophus agent, husband and father.
I highly recommend these books if you like sci-fi thrillers and comedy. This third book was everything I’d hoped for, a wonderful end to a trilogy that has been a wildly entertaining ride from the get go. It’s funny, action-filled, and manages to tie up all the loose ends that count, while still leaving things open-ended enough for future stories set in this universe. I look forward to the announced follow-up sequel series The Rise of Io.