Audiobook Review: THE REBIRTHS OF TAO by Wesley Chu (Narr. Michael Naramore)

RebirthsWow. That’s it. The last book for Roen Tan. Thankfully, this isn’t the last book for Wesley Chu, and not even the last in this universe of alien-hosting humans and their not-so-secret war to save Earth. Thankfully-thankfully, this isn’t even the last book Wesley will publish this year. Tor will release his next novel, Time Salvager, July 7, 2015.

Wesley was also recently nominated for the Campbell Award for best new writer. I have my Hugo nominees packet, but it will be hard pressed for one of the other nominees to outperform Wes.

Do you like spies? I do. Jason Bourne is a favorite. Imagine the next Bourne film started with him dying and losing the alien spirit that had taught him everything, from philosophy, to the ancient history of alien influence, to fighting, to you name it. The alien spirit, Tao, requires a human host to survive. It is late at night and Tao, a Prophus (the good guys of aliens), can’t afford to be picky on its next host. A cab door opens up and an overweight computer programer throws up on the sidewalk.

Poor Tao. He inhabits the out of shape body of someone unwilling to outgrow his teenage fears and weaknesses.

I won’t go through all of the first two books aside from saying they are among my highest recommendations for someone looking for an easy to enjoy, butt-kick exciting, light-scifi adventure with a surprisingly strong character devotion. Roen Tan may never have become Jason Bourne in his fighting ability, but what became so much more important was how he became what I’d like to become as a husband and father.

Read on only if you’ve read the first two books, The Lives of Tao (review) and The Deaths of Tao (review).

Again, Wes starts his book after a significant time lapse from the previous edition. When he did this after the second book, The Deaths of Tao, I wondered if I’d miss experiencing the events of those years. He’d gone from revealing his secret of the alien inside him to starting the book with a son around four and he’s split from his wife, Jill. Deaths was a great book, and had moving moments between Roen and his wife, including the cute reference to their baseball game first date as his password. It’s been awhile since I read that book, but did they ever have a face-to-face moment of reconciliation? It was surely implied that it would happen; I’m just reflecting on Wesley’s ability to move the story forward without unnecessary events, and I’m impressed by it.

In The Rebirths of Tao, Roen’s son, Cameron, is now a teenager and takes on a POV role now that he has Tao. I don’t know if Wes planned the trilogy this way, but this element worked perfectly. We get to see Roen struggling without his best friend, Tao, which illustrated a strange jealousy he had with his son and one that his wife had grown used to. This dynamic places Roan in a new kind of trial as he must continue on in this war without the help of his alien mentor. Roen has also gone from the difficulty of balancing being with his family versus fighting in the war to trying to keep his upstart son from getting in over his head. Cameron’s alien assimilation at such a young age has allowed Tao to train him into the best symbiotic human-alien warrior ever. I really enjoyed experiencing Cameron’s ambition and courage along with his dad’s fear. The character arc for Roen through this stage makes him one of the most well-rounded character experiences I’ve read. Wesley’s injection of life events into Roen’s life, and the way he pulls out all the difficult emotions along the way, made for a deep and complete story among the best I’ve read. Add to that intelligence and excitement of the unique war between alien hosted humans and their plot to transform Earth while destroying humanity. Now that Roen’s story concludes, we get the continued privilege of seeing how this complicated war plays out with a new set of characters.

The main criticism I have about Rebirths is that I had times when I didn’t need to pick it from my queue. This isn’t to say the pacing was bad–it is rare to find a book that can stay at the top of my queue from first page to last–but there were times through the story when I wished its excitement was greater. I am not sure where to pinpoint these waning moments, but it could be parts of the enemy’s POV as he goes back and forth between who will and won’t support him. It could also be that some of the missions evoked the same feeling. It’s a spy book and agents will defend or invade, and some of those scenes came and went without as much interest as I’d like. My excitement picked up as Roen and his family were directly in danger, and the ending was great. However, I wonder if some of the battle scenes in the end could have been more descriptive.

These picky criticisms didn’t take away from me giving a strong recommendation to this book and the series. I just see them as areas I think could be improved in Wesley’s future books. He’s a heck of a writer–and as an aspiring author I was often jealous of his ability–I’m just sharing my experience as a reader.

The narration by Michael Naramore continued on from his dominance in the first two books. This guy is one of the best I’ve heard. His characters evoke personality that seamlessly transport us into the story without the barrier of realizing we’re being read to. His pacing and ability to inject tension at the right moments are also among the best. I hope he sticks around for the next series.

That’s enough of my review; now go out and read some Chu!

Wesley Chu’s website. Signed books store.

Buying Info:

UK Print & Ebook | Book Depository | Waterstones | WHSmith

North American Print & Ebook | | |

Global DRM-Free Epub Ebook
Available now from the Robot Trading Company

Audible for audiobook.

About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a former Executive Producer for AISFP. His debut novel, Scavenger: Evolution, blends Dune with Alien in a thriller where sand divers uncover death and evolution within America's buried fortresses. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

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  1. For anyone interested, Wesley, Ramez Naam and Jay Posey are signing their trilogies at a giveaway here

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