by Wesley Chu
Mass Market Paperback, 462 pg.
Angry Robot Books, 2013
Read: October 17 – 24, 2014
It’s been a few years since the events of The Lives of Tao, and things have not gone well for Roen Tam, either personally or in the war. He’s basically dropped out of everything, going rogue, running covert ops for Tao while ignoring Prophus’ command structure. Tao’s sure he understands what’s going on in the world better than anyone else, and so he pushes Roen to leave everything behind and find evidence for Tao’s theory.
Meanwhile, Jill — and Raji — have wormed their way into the corridors of power in the Capitol, moving and shaking on behalf of Prophus while also keeping her cover as a Senatorial aide intact. This is where Prophus seems to be holding its own – but barely.
We bounce around between Roen, Jill, and a new Gengix host, Enzo, who is trying to find a level of dominance very quickly for himself in the Gengix hierarchy. He’s rash, impetuous, and egotistical — not the signs of a great leader. But the Gengix he’s hosting is wise, methodical, honorable and tries to impress these characteristics on this host.
But like I said, things aren’t going well for the Prophus — they’re on the verge of losing this war once and for all, clinging to power and influence some areas, absolutely losing it in others. They’re so close to the brink that they eventually are driven to one final act of desperation that will change everything forever.
As the title suggests, The Deaths of Tao is darker (like any good 2nd volume of a trilogy), not as fun (understandable given the darkness, but would’ve been helpful), and slower paced than The Lives of Tao. But, still, I was enjoying it enough to keep going — and I wanted to see what happened to Roen and the rest. Hopefully get to see my favorite Prophus host whip that Gengix Enzo around a bit. But Chapter 29? Made everything up to that point worth it. And excitement, the pace, and the stakes picked up after that (not the stakes for the whole armies, obviously, but for Roen and Jill)
Still, it took until Chapter 29 for this really to come together for me — and that’s far too long. Which is strange, because up until that point, I’d say this was better structured than its predecessor. It built better in plot development, character and tension. But Chapter 29 made me rethink that, it’s just too much of a jump in development and voice.
I find it hard to understand — except for strength in numbers — just how the Gengix are winning this thing. The Prophus seem to come out on top — if not even with — the Gengix almost every time we see them. It’s difficult to extrapolate from this to them almost losing this war. Yet that’s exactly the situation they’re in, and you believe it, up until you think about it a day or two later.
Giving it three stars — as good as the last 150 pages or so were, as huge as the ending was — it was a slog up until that point. I just couldn’t connect with Roen or Tao (or anyone else). But believe you me, I’m anticipating The Rebirths of Tao and expect it to blow me away. Just wish this had done that.