I recently finished the third book in Wesley Chu’s Tao series, and while it’s not my conventional reading of sword and sorcery type stuff, it was still a good read. So, here are my full thoughts on the series as a whole, treating it as a trilogy of books (even if there are technically other works that follow the third). Since the “last” book was published in 2015, I won’t bring up any spoilers here. Instead, I’ll focus on plot and character development, writing style, and story structure as a whole.
Before we get started, let me talk about genre and story premise. I would describe these books as a secret history series where the Earth is all but controlled by this alien race called the Quasing. In the context of these books, many famous (or infamous) world leaders and prominent historical figures had aliens in their heads telling them what to do. The only way for a Quasing to leave their host to move on to the next is for the host to die, and they can’t exist outside of a person for very long. Over time, these beings split into two warring factions, called the Prophus and Genjix, and now have a secret war that has been raging for centuries. All of this is unbeknownst to the public.
The series follows one particular Quasing, Tao, as its main character. He is a Prophus operative trying to stop the Genjix from doing whatever their dastardly schemes have brought them to next. He and his host meet trouble along the way (of course) and it’s up to the two of them to save the day against all odds.
The book series is pretty good. If that sounds like a premise you would enjoy, chances are you would. I personally love secret history and learning all of the “hidden truths” about past events and people. This series basically rewrites world history from the beginning by shedding light on who was really pulling the strings behind Caesar, Napoleon, Charlamagne, etc. Another great thing about this series is that it can be pretty humorous. In something like Dresden Files, it can be serious sprinkled in with hilarious situations or comments (Harry Dresden is a funny guy after all), but in the Tao series, it doesn’t take itself quite so seriously. Humor is thrown in quite a bit. It’s not the “every once in a while: comedic relief”, but rather a “humor is always a character here, he is just quieter in some scenes”. This can be taken as a negative or a positive point, depending on your preference.
My biggest annoyance with this series though is that the series isn’t complex, and on top of that broke important rules once or twice. If I were to describe to you the overarching plot of Dresden Files, or even the plot of any one specific book in that series, it would take me quite a while because there’s a lot going on the further into the series you go. Granted, the Tao series is only three books, but describing the plot development in any one of the three would take me less than a minute each. To be honest, the plot is pretty similar between all three books, as well. It’s just too formulaic for my tastes. Going back to the rule breaking, it pretty much made one big change to the way things worked just to have a bad thing not happen, and that never sat well with me, because it almost directly contradicted a major plot point in the first book.
On top of all this, the writing itself seems pretty basic. Now, I don’t feel comfortable judging somebody on this particular point, being a fledgling writer myself, but as I was reading it there were a lot of mistakes that even I don’t make anymore. Many had to do with description and word choice, but the books are predictable. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it isn’t exactly good in this case, either.
Is the Tao series worth picking up? Sure, if the premise sounds interesting, and you like a lot of action in a book. It’s not bad by any means. I liked quite a few of the characters, and my suspension of disbelief was never broken. I’d say there’s a good book for every situation, and this series certainly has a place in an avid reader’s library.