Last spring, it seemed that every writer I follow on Twitter was gushing about this book, but it really didn’t seem like my kind of thing. But last week, I saw it on the new book library shelf and decided to give it a shot. So glad I did. In case you haven’t seen it, the back cover blurb is:
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…
Roen’s obviously not your typical hero, or even your atypical hero. But he’s a good guy that you eventually like (as difficult as that can be to imagine when we first encounter him). Which is good, because he’s our entry point in to this world, and an entry point that you can’t stand doesn’t make for fun reading. As he gets to understand his place in this new reality he’s been exposed to, as he begins to understand how these aliens have changed world history — we get to, too.
This doesn’t seem like Chu’s first book, he writes with panache, skill and confidence. His action scenes feel authentic, his world is intricate and believable, and he tells his story in a compelling manner that keeps you turning pages.
There’s some real heart here amongst the SF action. Often in SF, particularly the more high-concept SF, characters can be 1- or 2-dimensional. Not here, the most minor of characters seem real, seem like someone you could bump into at the water cooler, public transportation or a government office. You get to like them as people, not just as representatives of Prophus or Genjix — and that’s key. People with convictions, aspirations and relate-able motivations. As long as Chu keeps that up, this series will be one to stick with.
While I liked the banter, the back-and-forth between Roen and Tao, Roen and the others — but I didn’t find the book as hilarious as so many others have. I just see it as a good suspense novel (with a wicked twist) featuring some snarky characters. And that’s good enough to enjoy this and to bring me back for more.