Ella Patel – thief, con-artist and smuggler – is in the wrong place at the wrong time. One night, on the border of a demilitarized zone run by the body-swapping alien invaders, she happens upon a man and woman being chased by a group of assailants. The man freezes, leaving the woman to fight off five attackers at once, before succumbing. As she dies, to both Ella and the man’s surprise, the sparkling light that rises from the woman enters Ella, instead of the man. She soon realizes she’s been inhabited by Io, a low-ranking Quasing who was involved in some of the worst decisions in history. Now Ella must now help the alien presence to complete her mission and investigate a rash of murders in the border states that maintain the frail peace.
With the Prophus assigned to help her seemingly wanting to stab her in the back, and the enemy Genjix hunting her, Ella must also deal with Io’s annoying inferiority complex. To top it all off, Ella thinks the damn alien voice in her head is trying to get her killed. And if you can’t trust the voices in your head, who can you trust?
Title: The Rise of Io | Author: Wesley Chu | Publisher: Angry Robot | Series: Io #1 | Pub. Date: 4th October 2016 | Pages: 512 | ISBN: 9780857665836 | Genre: Science Fiction | Language: English | Starred Review: No | Source: Self-purchased
The Rise of Io Review
‘The Rise of Io’ is one of those annoying books that’s alternately brilliant and dull. It has an entertaining central premise, a great protagonist, a rich and enjoyably different setting, strong science fiction themes and some decent action sequences. Unfortunately it hamstrings all of that with a convoluted plot packed with confusing twists that left me cold.
It’s set in Crate Town, a ramshackle, lawless slum in the Indian state of Gujarat. The word Crate Town is in is similar to ours but very different. The invention of a new scientific technique has revealed the presence on Earth of body swapping alien invaders. The aliens (Quasings) have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, inhabiting animals and then humans in an attempt to find a way to get back to their home world. The Quasings are split into two factions, battling each other for supremacy on Earth. Human society has adjusted to the knowledge of their presence, although humans never know who is inhabited and who isn’t.
It’s an interesting concept and author Wesley Chu lays it out well, gradually revealing more about the history of the Quasings and their time on Earth as the story progresses. In short snippets we get to hear about the various notable humans that the main Quasing character, Io, has inhabited over the years.
It’s the human protagonist, Ella, who provides the most entertainment in the book though. A scrappy, half Indian-half Singaporean nineteen year old street rat, she survives the dangerous would of Crate Town using her wits and moral flexibility. She’s one of the most enjoyable characters I’ve read in ages – funny, relatable, brave and principled despite her willingness to con anyone who crosses her path. She becomes a human host for Io early in the book and the sparring between down to earth human and lofty, logical alien is riotously entertaining in the manner of the best buddy movie.
Ella and Io get into all manner of scrapes and the chases and fight scenes that pepper the book are gripping and well described. What lets ‘The Rise of Io’ down, for me at least, was the rather ponderous plot that centres around the politics and rivalry between the two Quasing groups. When the book focuses on Ella it’s great fun, but the price of that entertainment is having to wade through long and much less enjoyable sections of about the Quasing hierarchy.
Overall, this is still a book that’s worthy of your time. Ella is wonderful and the concept is used well for the most part. It also presents an enjoyably different world to the ones we normally see in Sci Fi. There is, I think, only one white character in the book, and the variety of Asian characters and cultures Chu writes about it refreshing. It’s certainly made me want to read more of his books. Thankfully there are quite a few of them.
You can purchase a copy of this book via your normal retailer, but please consider purchasing it from a local indie bookshop instead. It can be found here at Indiebound or at Bookshop. Please note the Bookshop link is an affiliate link and each purchase you make through it helps to support Sci-Fi & Scary and keep the site running.
Be First to Comment