By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Lives of Tao
By Wesley Chu
Angry Robot, 2013
When Roen Tan finds himself being mugged after a late night at work, he goes into a panic, not knowing what to do.
But then, a voice inside his head instructs him how to handle the mugger. Worried he might be going crazy, but not having any other ideas on how to fight his attacker, he listens to the voice. And comes out alive.
About a week later, the voice returns and Roen learns he has not gone crazy. He is now sharing his body with Tao, a member of an ancient alien race called Prophus. Not only that, Roen quickly learns that the peace-loving but under-represented Prophus have been at a centuries-long civil war with the Genjix, the better-represented and savage members of the same alien race that split off from the group that landed on Earth during the time of dinosaurs. Both groups want to find a way to get off Earth and back to their home — they just have different ideas of how to achieve this goal.
Suddenly thrown into a war with no choice but to fight, Roen, an out-of-shape IT worker who hates his day job, must train to be ready for anything.
While this is a story about a war that could lead to the end of the human race, “Tao” is also the story of an unlikely hero who never wanted the job in the first place. Roen is the ultimate underdog and you can’t help but cheer him on as he takes on each daunting task presented to him.
In addition to being action packed, “Tao” is also funny. As Roen and Tao bond over the course of their unplanned union, the two become almost like brothers — teasing and sarcastic remarks included. But underneath all of the barbs and bickering the unlikely pair look out for each other, fully committing to the mission to save the planet from the Genjix.
By Peter R. Stone
Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2014
In this final installment of Stone’s “Forager” trilogy, we catch up with Ethan Jones and the rest of his gang right where the last book left off — with them fleeing Newhome after they have been accused of being terrorists.
Now on the run, the group must find a safe place to stay as they plan their next move. And that next move entails figuring out how to save their post-apocalyptic Australian hometown, where they all grew up except for Ethan’s Japanese wife Nanako, as Hamamachi Rangers and their Skel allies continue to target the town and capture people to be the latters’ slaves.
The group realizes the only way to prove the Rangers’ nefarious deeds is to expose them with photographic proof. This means voluntarily visiting the heart of Skel territory — something none of them wants to do.
If that weren’t enough, throw in a stubborn gung-ho assassin and a botched raid. There’s also information from the aforementioned assassin that could change the course of Ethan and Nanako’s marriage as well as some of the group members’ wavering support of the mission as they grow weary from constantly risking their lives. And to top it all off, Ethan’s memory is coming back to him one seizure at a time and we slowly get more clues about who shot him all those years ago.
In this third book in his trilogy, Stone’s characters are fully formed and multi-faceted. They each have their strengths and weaknesses and are far from perfect. And with the group in the most intense fight for their lives to date, their flaws and weaknesses come to the forefront, but Stone’s writing has them all balancing each other out as they learn they are stronger as a group than alone.
By Tina Chan
Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2013
In a world where humans are genetically engineered to be Perfects — from eliminating allergies and illness, to determining physical appearance, to enhancing their coordination and grace — Kristi is an anomaly. As the only Accident (a person born without any genetic enhancements) in her community, she is seen as inferior in every way.
Needless to say, life is less than great for her.
Then her adoptive parents are arrested, her brother is thrown in jail and Kristi is thrown into the thick of things as she teams up with a strange girl she meets by chance and they work to rescue Kristi’s brother and try to figure out what her parents had been up to before they were arrested.
Elsewhere in this world, there’s Troop — the top dog at his school.
Boys want to be him and girls want to be with him. But Troop isn’t all that he seems and beneath all of the perfection, he hides a secret that he guards with his life.
Eventually Kristi and Troop cross paths and they are thrown into a dangerous mission involving being on the run, secret societies, government secrets and a leopard named Ghost.
In “Imperfect,” Chan gives us a glimpse of a future in which the need for perfection goes too far. With everyone’s qualities and characteristics predetermined before they are even born, there is not much room for individuality and any difference among people.
This story is filled with intense action scenes as Kristi, Troop and the others they befriend work to expose government secrets.
But “Imperfect” is also for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.
Chan will have readers questioning whether being part of the “in” crowd is really worth sacrificing what makes you… you. And while this book is geared toward teens, that is a lesson readers of all ages should remember. (end)
Samantha Pak can be reached at email@example.com.