The Days Of Tao by Wesley Chu (book review).

January 1, 2018 | By | Reply More

‘The Days Of Tao’ is the fourth episode of Wesley Chu’s series of Science Fiction stories based around the alien creature called Tao. The previous three books were all full-length novels, whereas this is a novella, available in a limited-edition run of one thousand signed and numbered hardback copies from specialist publisher Subterranean Press. If your budget doesn’t stretch to $40 for a 120 page novella, however special, it’s also available as an eBook for $ 4.99 (US).

For those who haven’t read the previous books in the series, Tao is from an alien race called the Quasing, who crash-landed on Earth 65 million years ago and whose ultimate aim is to go home again. The Quasing are gaseous life-forms that are unable to survive for long on their own in Earth’s atmosphere, as it’s toxic to them. Their solution has been to use local creatures, first animals and, later, humans as host bodies. There are two warring factions of the Quasing. The paternalistic and liberal Prophus occupy their host bodies symbiotically and want humanity to benefit from the relationship, as they help us to become a space-faring species so that, ultimately, they can leave Earth and return to their home planet. The aggressive and controlling Genjix, on the other hand, see their human hosts purely as a means to an end and would be perfectly happy to make the Earth uninhabitable if it meant they could head home sooner.

The novella starts in Athens, where a visiting Russian Government Minister, who is also a Genjix agent, receives an urgent coded message. He is to return to Moscow immediately, as the Genjix are about to launch a world-wide attack on the Prophus. What he doesn’t know is that his bodyguard Nazar is a Prophus sleeper agent, who waits for him to download the relevant intelligence to his laptop before killing him and stealing it. Now Nazar needs to get the intel out of Greece and back to Prophus HQ in Greenland. He calls them up and asks for an urgent extraction. Unfortunately, the only agent they’ve got in the whole of the country is Tao and his host, 21 year-old university student Cameron Tan. Cameron is only in Athens because he got a D in his Art History exams, so his mother has sent him on a remedial summer course. Cameron is training to be a Prophus agent, he just isn’t very good at it yet. Can he step up when the pressure’s on and get Nazar out of Greece before it’s too late?

I haven’t read all the previous instalments in this series but I did read the first book, ‘The Lives Of Tao’, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This novella shares many of its positive qualities. Chu has an easy and natural writing style and he does comedy well. The plot is well-paced and pulls you easily through the story from chapter to chapter. So far, so good.

Where this story falls down for me, compared to ‘The Lives Of Tao’, is in the flaws of the protagonist, Cameron Tan. In that earlier book, Tao’s human host was Roen Tan (Cameron’s father, but prior to the birth of Cameron). Roen was initially an overweight computer programmer who was completely unsuited to his new life as a secret agent, forced on him when Tao’s previous host was killed and he was the only human near enough for Tao to enter before Earth’s atmosphere poisoned him. Given this set-up, the comedy flowed effortlessly, as every mistake made by Roen was funny but also understandable, given his total lack of preparation for the role that had suddenly been thrust upon him. Here, in contrast, Cameron has been Tao’s host since the age of five and has wanted to be a Prophus agent all that time. He has received extensive training in combat, at which he excels, yet ask him to do the simplest non-combat task associated with being a secret agent and he immediately screws up. Although these failures are necessary, both for the humour and the plot, they are not very believable and rapidly become irritating. By the time that Cameron started to redeem himself, towards the end of the novella, I’m afraid I’d lost patience with him.

If you’re a fan of Wesley Chu’s ‘Tao’ series, you’ll probably want to read this novella, for continuity purposes if nothing else. However, if you haven’t come across this author or this series before, there are better places to start than here.

Patrick Mahon

December 2017

(pub: Subterranean Press, 2016. 119 page deluxe hardback. Price: $40.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-788-2)

check out website: www.subterraneanpress.com

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Category: Books, Scifi

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