The Days of Tao: Checking in with Cameron Tan

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The Days of Tao Kindle Edition by Wesley Chu (Author)The Days of Tao by Wesley Chu fantasy book reviewsThe Days of Tao by Wesley Chu

Warning: Contains mild spoilers for Chu’s TAO trilogy.

Wesley Chu’s TAO trilogy (The Lives of Tao, The Deaths of Tao, The Rebirths of Tao) about two enemy alien species (the Prophus and the Genjix) who’ve been occupying human hosts and battling it out on Earth for thousands of years, came to a satisfying conclusion last year but I was hoping for more because, as I said in my review of the third book, “I’d especially like to see what becomes of Cameron Tan.”

Wesley Chu must have been listening ‘cause here comes The Days of Tao (2016), a novella featuring Cameron, now in his early twenties, on a Study Abroad program in Greece. So far Cameron has not been a stellar agent. He doesn’t always take his schoolwork seriously and, as we saw in the last book, he tends to be a little too trusting, especially of pretty girls. But when the Prophus have an emergency situation in Athens — they need to quickly extract an agent who is carrying some world-shatteringly important intel — their only choice is to send Cameron to do the job. Besides, they want Cameron out of Greece, too, because they know that something bad is about to happen there.

The predictable problem is that when Cameron finds out that Greece is now a dangerous place to be, he doesn’t have the heart to leave his new friends behind. Thus, some of the Study Abroad students get dragged along on the adventure and it turns out that (surprise, surprise!) one of them is a Genjix informant. Yes, Cameron still has a long way to go before being a completely competent Prophus agent, but he’ll be learning several important lessons in this story.

The Days of Tao will please fans of the TAO series who are eager for an update. It’s got the light bantering tone that fans expect, but there are also some tragedies that Cameron and his friends must suffer and Cameron leaves Greece as a different, more serious, young man. The story covers just a few days in Cameron’s life, but gives us a glimpse of what he is like as an adult and lets us check in with his parents Roen and Jill. The story also shows us that the war between the Genjix and the Prophus has escalated and the fate of all humanity is at stake. Chu doesn’t answer all of our questions and leaves the story hanging at the end, which I liked, actually. This little episode may be over, but the overall story of the Prophus-Genjix war is at a climax. I have no idea whether Chu intends to finish it. I hope he does.

Chu missed some opportunities with his setting and characters. Greece makes a great backdrop for this type of adventure, but Chu doesn’t take advantage of it. The story could have happened almost anywhere. Likewise, the Study Abroad students could have added a lot more texture with their various backgrounds and studies, but again Chu misses this opportunity. He also seems to forget to give Nazar, the agent that Cameron is extracting from Greece, a more prominent role in the plot once he meets up with Cameron and his friends. Nazar, who’s got years of experience, is quite resourceful, and is an excellent shot, should be really useful on their mission, but instead he becomes passive as Cameron takes center stage.

These missed opportunities make Chu’s world and characters feel a little thin, but the TAO books have always been that way, so fans are not likely to care much. I enjoyed The Days of Tao as a short entertaining adventure featuring a character that I was hoping to catch up with. The Days of Tao was published in print form by Subterranean Press and in audio form by Audible Studios. I took a look/listen to both. Hardbacks by Sub Press are always of the highest quality — a delight to hold and look at — and the audio version, read by Mikael Naramore is also excellent. It’s 3.5 hours long.

Published April 30, 2016. Cameron Tan wouldn’t have even been in Greece if he hadn’t gotten a ‘D’ in Art History. Instead of spending the summer after college completing his training as a Prophus operative, he’s doing a study abroad program in Greece, enjoying a normal life — spending time with friends and getting teased about his crush on a classmate. Then the emergency notification comes in: a Prophus agent with vital information needs immediate extraction, and Cameron is the only agent on the ground, responsible for getting the other agent and data out of the country. The Prophus are relying on him to uncomplicate things.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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3 comments

  1. The cover art is just stunning. I’d be tempted to buy both versions just so I could sit and look at them!

  2. Agree with your assessment. I picked this up last week (kindle version) and enjoyed it somewhat, but not nearly as much as the full books in the Tao series. Tao is still the star of the story. I was surprised at how many “mistakes” Cameron made and was also disappointed by the lack of character development of the supporting roles of Cameron’s classmates in general and Nazar in particular.

    I think the fact we got no POV from the Genjix side was a significant weakness in engaging the reader in the central conflict of the story.

    • I agree with you about the lack of Genjix POV. I didn’t think of that before.

      Mad Professah, I’m going to try to train you to use the stars. :)

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