Fat loser meets snarky alien. Gets in shape. Fights war over control of humanity’s evolution. Gets a girlfriend. Not in order of importance.
A trilogy based on a very cool idea. Written by a guy that, thanks to this trilogy, escaped his boring finance work to become a pro writer. Published by Angry Robot, great little company despite its hipster tendencies. Lots of great British urban fantasy (Newman, Shevdon), good heroic fantasy, very interesting covers (Blackbirds). And interesting business ideas, you can buy a seasonal pass to get or their books in electronic format. If you hate all that is good, traditional and physical 😉
The basic premise of the series goes like that: a long time ago an alien ship crashed on Earth. Aliens, a race called “Quasing” where extremely unsuited to inhabit our planet. They needed different atmosphere, and, to survive, unable to live alone, they started to posses the creatures of Earth. Firstly – dinosaurs. Soon – homo sapiens, species they judged most likely to develop a science able to allow the Quasing to rebuild their ship and get back to their planet.
And so it goes… you see, the history of humanity was not what you think it is. It was engineered by a race of extraterrestrials that inhabited the bodies of most of the significant humans in history. Politicians, generals, scientists and what have you. Napoleon, Socrates, Laozi. All of them, really. All the great ideas, inventions… the Quasing took a species of apes and made them into a civilized race. But you don’t know anything about that, ’cause they never revealed themselves. But don’t worry. Not all of the Quasing see as us mere slaves. Some are benevolent masters. The minority faction of Prophus fight majority Genjix to see that we are treated more than vessels of their ascension. Not that they believe us to be their equals. But their goal isn’t to exterminate us, so we should be grateful 😉
Ok, that was too bitter. Generally, it’s a fun, fast-paced series of action s/f. Main characters are:
- Tao, an alien with a soul, whose past incarnations include Temujin (fuckin’ Genghis Khan, if you need me to spell it out), but a gentle soul and a member of the Propus
- Roen Tan, Asian-American IT guy, shy, obese and generally useless, who, accidentally, becomes Tao’s next host and a hero of the Resistance. Gets a girlfriend, a son, and saves our species from extinction. Or does he? Read the books to find out.
- Jill [spoiler alert] Tan. Roen’s co-worker and, at some point, wife. Smarter and prettier half of our protagonist, and the one who broke a thousands years old conspiracy.
I don’t want to spoil too much, so I’ll just say this: it’s not a great series, but it’s fun. Fast-paced, innovative, funny. Clumsy, often. But worth your time.
The author has significant martial arts experience and acted out most action scenes. It shows. He’s a little out of his league when he tries to go epic, but nevertheless he creates something new and original and it’s enough to make him noteworthy.
It’s not a crossover of Le Carre and Kafka, but there is a lot of Ludlum and some Clancy. It’s not literary fiction, but it’s a gem of its kind.
That being said, I have some issues with the final installment. To quote my Goodreads review:
Ok, first – I was dissapointed by Angry Robot. Just like with Mike Shevdon’s great cycle, they finished a series of trade paperbacks with a mass market. At least that’s what I got and it doesn’t look nice on my shelf 😦 In general I don’t mind smaller paperbacks, but I want my series to fit together. I hate it when format changes midway through. It definitely should be prohibited by law.
The book itself is very good by itself, and good as a conclusion of the trilogy. More of the same in a good way, with more focus on Cameron, change of the guard. Some people (and aliens) die, on both sides, enough to make victories look hard-won. Humanity gets some agency. Humour, action, recommended reading. Well worth it for anybody who liked previous instalments. If you like Tan and his family, and maybe even Tao – meet them again 🙂
Things I’m not so happy about… it does get a little repetitive. While I felt that it should be more epic this time, with stakes even higher, it was actually more contained – smaller territory, fewer characters, almost none high-level politics. And I’m not convinced by what we were told happened in-between 2nd and 3d book. Earth on brink of destruction and Prophus runs an underground escape routes for refugees from Asia, but makes no visible effort to cooperate with humanity’s self defence force, which clearly is the only realistic way left to win the war. Will they ger smarter? Read the book to check 😉
Score: The Lives of Tao: 7/10 The Deaths of Tao: 7/10 The Rebirths of Tao: 6,5/10