Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Lives of Tao

  Here's another big release from Angry Robot books - 'The Lives of Tao' is out on April 30th. It's the debut from Wesley Chu, and it's been very well received so far. I have to admit, it's not
Angry Robot, £8.99
really my type of thing, and it's not going into my top reads of the year - but it, objectively speaking, did have lots to recommend it. 

   Roen Tan is an overweight and unhealthy IT technician. On the way home from work one night he suddenly finds his body invaded by an alien being - Tao. The next few days are a whirlwind of paranoia and confusion as he battles through the suspicion that he has gone mad, and comes to believe the voice in his head telling him that he is now the host to an alien. Tao tells his new host that he is a Quasing - beings which have inhabited the Earth since before the evolution of humans. Roen learns that the Quasings have split into two factions - Tao is a Prophus, and he is involved in the battle with the Genjix, who want to subjugate the human race in their effort to return to their home planet. Roen has inadvertently become a part of a ruthless war, but in order for him to be useful, Tao must first transform him from out-of-shape office drone into a fit and strong secret agent, with all the skills that involves. 
   It's a fun journey, and the internal dialogue between Roen and his new teacher and partner is lightning-quick and snippy. The most fascinating aspect of the story is the fact that Tao is an immortal being who simply transfers to a new host upon the death of a previous one, so he has seen the entirety of human history from one perspective or another. In the course of this time, the Quasings have accumulated an immense amount of knowledge, and often managed to be in the right place to occupy extremely influential historical characters as hosts. So Tao can teach Roen using stories of the time he occupied Genghis Khan, General Lafayette, Sun Yat-Sen, and lots of others.
   While I did find some passages to lack the engaging quality of others, I found myself thinking frequently about how well this novel would translate to the big screen. It's precisely the type of story which I absolutely love in a movie - an action thriller with a fantasy or science fiction basis. I'm unsure as to how a filmmaker might overcome the narrative difficulty presented by the extensive internal dialogue between Roen and his symbiotic partner Tao, but I suppose that's why I'm not in the screenwriting or directing business! This is an energetic and fun novel, and it's well worth a read for any fan of this genre.
   A little while ago I reviewed Emma Newman's 'Between Two Thorns', the first in a planned 'Split Worlds' series. You can find my review here. I've recently received the second in the series, and I can't wait to read it, but in the meantime I've discovered Emma's website, containing links to no fewer than 54 short stories based in the world of the 'Split Worlds' series. I'm planning to read those before continuing with the series. I've read about 20 so far, and they are enjoyably quirky and whimsical. Go have a look!
    I also finally read 'The Rights of the Reader' by Daniel Pennac this week. It's a passionate defence of reading for pure pleasure, and an exploration of the experience of reading from early childhood - from a bedtime picture book for a toddler, through learning letters, to exhaustive comprehension exercises in school. He finishes with ten concise 'Rights of the Reader'. The new translation by Sarah Adams is published by Walker Books and illustrated by Quentin Blake, and Walker have produced this illustration of the ten Rights:
'The Rights of the Reader' by Daniel Pennac, illustrated by Quentin Blake. Published by Walker Books, £6.99.
   The book has made me think a lot about how to pass on a love of reading to the next generation - how could I make sure that a child enjoyed books as much as I do? I'll have to wait and see.


  1. Thanks for the shout-out for the Split Worlds stories, I'm glad you're enjoying them :)