Because all of life is stories.
***WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE SERIES***
If you’re late picking up this series by the inestimable Wesley Chu, the review of the first book can be found here. Otherwise, read on.
It’s been more than ten years since lazy cubicle worker Roen Tan became the host of Tao, a member of the alien race known as the Quasing, and joined the war against the Genjix (A rival faction) to help save humankind. And in those ten years Roen has gone from slack-jawed computer monkey to a lean, mean, alien killing machine. After a close encounter with a Genjix Adonis Vessel named Jacob Diamont, Roen was brought to the brink of death. So close in fact that Tao was forced from Roen’s body, and in to the only available host at the time. Roen’s young son, Cameron.
Rebirths picks up a decade after that event, with Cameron a sixteen year old Prophus agent in training. Roen is considered the lowest of the low, having gone somewhat rogue to ferry lost Prophus and defecting Genjix agents out of the war and in to safety. This underground railroad, headed by Roen’s wife Jill Tesser Tan, is the cause for no small amount of strife amongst the Genjix, landing Jill at the top of the Genjix most wanted list. When a strategically valuable Genjix facility is discovered outside Genjix territory, the Prophus will move Heaven and Earth to take it. With threats from both the Genjix and the IXTF – A new government agency bent on hunting aliens in the wake of the “Great Reveal” – hitting far too close to home, Roen, Jill, Cameron and Tao will all be pushed to the brink of what a soldier and a family can endure.
Chu reminds me a lot of John Scalzi. His military and political sci-fi is littered with witty dialogue, endearing characters, and a cause worth fighting for. Chu’s world is a little more black and white than Scalzi’s, and this gives us a clear side to root for. Now, this isn’t always the way to go. Sometimes it’s preferable to have a little bit of gray in the mix. But Chu weaves a story where the harsh delineation between good and evil works, even as it begins to bleed and mix as the final book in the trilogy goes on.
The concept of the Quasing, a race that can only survive on Earth when hosted by a native life form, is still a fascinating one, and by now we seem to know all the rules. Chu manages to wrinkle in new developments that feel like an inevitability and an extension of existing powers and rules rather than just “Need new cool thing. Me invent new cool thing.” The sarcastic voice of Tao, the terrifying businesslike rage of Zoras, and every host in between provide a bevy of interesting narrators and characters that guide our human heroes and villains alike on their way.
Through all of this though, through the ambushes and betrayals and firefights and subterfuge, this is a story about a family, finally coming together after years of fracturing. Jill has her family back, and her work life manageable and under control. She gets to see her son off to school, for awhile at least. Roen is doing his damnedest to come to terms with the life his son must lead as a host, and is determined to keep him safe by arming him as best he can for an unsafe and uncertain future. Cameron must learn to become one with his host, protect his family, and come to terms with the life he is destined to lead. There isn’t anything that any of them wouldn’t do for one another. Chu carries the tone of a family’s love triumphantly through the finest of the Tao books.
In book one we got to see the coolest cheat code ever; an alien that made you great at stuff. That took a hopeless loser and turned him into a confident and assertive fighting machine. In book two we saw Roen grasping desperately to keep the world safe while still being a father and husband to those he loved. In the final chapter, it all comes together in ways that are surprising, yet inevitable. I’m sad to see the series close, but I’m glad I was here for the ride.