Published by Angry Robot on 2013-04-30
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Science Fiction
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When out-of-shape IT technician Roen woke up and started hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumed he was losing it. He wasn’t. 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…
This book surprised me so much. I did not expect to enjoy it nearly as much as I did. With that being said, it was also difficult for me to get through. It’s 460 pages seemed to go on forever for the first half of the book. It took me a long time to get through the first part and into the real action. Once I got closer to the middle of the book, it was easier for me to want to pick up and continue reading but it was still slow. That’s just how adult sci-fi books tend to be for me. Even with all of that, I ended up enjoying this book and am very glad I finally read it.
The best part of this book is the inner dialogue between Tao and Roen. Their conversations have humor and sarcasm as well as interesting historical references and some crazy science-fiction stuff. It was a very interesting way to have an almost dual POV book without actually having to switch between characters because they’re both right there in the same place. I was also a fan of the transformation that Roen goes through from beginning to end and the setbacks he experiences along the way. He changed quite a bit from the person he was when we meet him to the last moment in the book. He has experienced things he never thought he would and done things I hadn’t even dreamed of. He has new friends and a new purpose in life. It’s certainly not a life I would want but I liked seeing him come to terms with his new life and finding his own reasons for participating in it.
Unfortunately, there is a love triangle in this book. I thought for sure I’d be able to get away from that with an adult sci-fi book written by a man, but nope. It’s there. I should have known considering it’s probably every man’s dream to have two beautiful women wanting to be with you. At least it wasn’t dealt with in a teenager-y way and though Roen does struggle with feelings for both of them, he does make a decision about who he wants to be with and sticks with his choice.
Overall, I enjoyed this book but it wasn’t an easy read. It took a while to get into and even when I was liking the story it was still slow. But I’m glad I finished and didn’t give up on it. I liked the humor and think that if you like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that you would like this one as well. I appreciated the growth the main character experiences although I’m not completely sold on the war Tao is selling him on. I’m not sure if I’ll ever read the sequel but I would be interested to see how more of the story plays out. I would recommend this book if you enjoy your sci-fi alien stories with a side of humor and history. I give the book 3.5 stars.
I enjoyed Lives of Tao quite a bit. The story is like an Assassin’s Creed game, but in reverse.* It is a pretty light, quick read with a handful of good action sequences and plenty of amusing historical references.
After writing that, I realize that I was probably the perfect target for the book, so feel free to adjust your interpretation of my feelings accordingly. In particular, I wonder how well the humor carries. I am a big history nerd, and many of the historical references are oblique — if you don’t like history or recall much of those classes, the humor of the book may be significantly lessened.
I am not going to claim that Lives of Tao is a “good” book — but I found it very enjoyable. Nonetheless, there are several significant elements that aren’t ideal. The pacing is pretty uneven and if you consume any action-genre media, you will likely predict the key points of the end from quite a ways out. There is also a love triangle, which I tend to find annoying almost by definition.
The story overcomes these weaknesses sufficiently well. The later third of the book contains a big payoff for the development in the beginning. The ending is interesting and did not go down exactly as I expected. The love triangle is also played a bit counter-stereotypically, so I was not as bothered by the end of the book as I was throughout.
It’s probably also notable that while I liked the book, I don’t feel a need to read the second or third books in the series. I might, but I’m not dying to do so anytime soon.
On the whole, Lives of Tao was a quick, interesting and enjoyable read. I strongly recommend it for anyone who likes history, conspiracy theories, or spy novels. I give the book 4 stars.
* In Assassin’s Creed, you play as a present-day member of a clandestine organization working to protect humanity from an overarching global conspiracy by reliving the experiences of your historically-based assassin ancestors. In Lives of Tao, you read about a present-day human inhabited by a member of an alien organization who contain the memories of past historical hosts and claim to be working against another alien organization for the benefit of humanity.
Clearly, my husband enjoyed this book more than I did, but that’s not surprising at all, especially considering how much more he enjoys history than me. Also, we both read the book and write our reviews before we talk much about the book and I think it’s really interesting how similar our reviews and thoughts on the book are. Have you read this book? What did you think about it?