Title: The Rise of Io
Author: Wesley Chu
Genre: Science fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads Summary: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?
Well that was fun!
I'd never read any books by Wesley Chu, but I had heard a lot of really great things about Time Salvager. When I saw the blurb for The Rise of Io, I was instantly ensnared: Ella Patel, thief, con artist. Sold!
Within the first few chapters I quickly learned that Ella Patel was 5' 4", called her parents "amma" and "appa", and took no shit from anyone. I started joking to my friends that I was reading my own autobiography, if only I was also half-Singaporean and excellent with a knife. And possessed by a sentient alien creature.
I really liked how this book was set in India and involved a cast of very diverse characters. Most books I know of that are set in India are very "literary" for lack of a better word and focus on its history or very specific communities. It was refreshing to read a sci fi book that just happened to be set in India, where people from all over the world (and galaxy) cross paths.
Ella Patel is one firecracker of a main character. She's small but fierce as hell, and endearingly stubborn. I was expecting her relationship with her new alien possessor, Io, to follow a certain formula: confusion/hatred, grudging respect, mutual friendship. I was glad to see that things were a lot more complicated than I expected, and Io and Ella never stopped sassing each other, which was great. Their relationship is really complicated but they both stay in character even as they grow and change their opinions of each other.
I also liked all the secondary characters. Shura was terrifying, and I really liked Ella's mentor whose name I'm blanking out on right now. Cameron and Tao seem like really cool characters; I'm excited to read more about their adventures in the Tao books.
This book is really fast-paced and full of fight scenes, conspiracies, and betrayal. Another goodreads reviewer likened it to a Marvel movie, and I think that's an excellent description of the book's tone: humorous, fast-paced, and just plain fun.
My only complaint with this book is that there could have been a little bit more research on two things. The first is pretty nitpicky, but the second was frankly very disappointing. First of all, the fact that Ella calls her parents "Amma" and "Appa" when her last name and family history indicate that she's Gujrati/from north India. Those words are very south Indian, so it doesn't really make sense for her to be calling her parents "mom" and "dad" in a language neither of them speaks. Anyways, I realize that is super nit-picky and probably doesn't make a difference to most readers. But the other thing I noticed was that at some point in the book, someone says something about "Hindi gods". Hindi is a language, Hinduism is a religion, and they are absolutely not equivalent. Not everyone who speaks Hindi is a Hindu, and not all Hindus speak Hindi! The two words are similar and often confused, but it really doesn't take much effort to spot check and make sure you're referencing the religion and not the language.
Besides those two details, this book did a great job with its portrayal of a spectacularly diverse and kick-ass cast of characters. It was a lot of fun and I am looking forward to reading more Quasing books!
A free eARC was provided by Angry Robot books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review