“Lives of Tao” by Wesley Chu

This book I finished recently, Live of Tao – it’s a very interesting read. But, I find myself having difficulty picking out something I really liked. It performed well as a narrative – I found myself reading, pulled along by the story, and although I wasn’t captivated to the point I couldn’t put it down, it was a good read.

I definitely feel like this was more of a plot-driven book, where the alien was more important than the human, and the main character could’ve been switched out with out too much change in the plot. Not a bad thing – just a point I would like to make.

This book used a lot of design in the writing, and I have to stress this because there was a lot it played with: 3rd person perspective, 1st person thoughts from the human and body-residing alien, and 1st person background from the alien at the start of every chapter.

I’m going to focus on the background because I think this is a very well-thought out decision.

At the beginning of every chapter, there is a short paragraph in italics that talks about the history of the aliens’ time on Earth. Each paragraph talks about a specific event through Tao’s perspective. For example, when he talks about the black plague, he talks about how some aliens hid their conscious in the body of rats and how it was a terrible time for him and his people.

This are an interesting addition to the book because where the author may have spent time including a huge background for a chapter, it would’ve been very boring with no action and a lot of summary. But by condensing it to a single paragraph before each chapter, the story is broken up, and slowly we learn about Tao’s perspective, about the intense relationship between him and the antagonist. It was a nice addition to the narrative.

I’ve seen similar quirks before chapters, usually a quote, a few words, and I think this was one of the most well-thought out additions. An easy way to provide background without interrupting the main story line.

After thought: 

From my perspective, this book was written primarily for a dialogue on morals. There are certain parts of the book, where the protagonist has to make moral decisions; there are times where Tao has to argue the difference between actions and intents. On top of that, the alien’s name is Tao, and from what I learned in class, the alien is named after the morals that we humans abide by.

This isn’t a bad thing, but I think it helps explains why the book is so plot driven, or driven by Tao and the other aliens, rather than the humans. This is more their story than ours, and their war on morals is more important than a human’s life.

Chapter Transitions

A while back, we discussed transitions from a paragraph to paragraph basis, but it’s different when you move from scene to scene, chapter to chapter. In the case of While Beauty Slept, chapters were like different scenes from the main character’s life as the reader followed her life story. And it made for very different transitions as Elizabeth Blackwell tried to capture only the most important parts of Elise’s story.

I did not meet the woman who was to transform my life until my second week at the castle. It was an encounter that remains vivid in my memory to this day, for it was the first time I glimpsed the darkness that lurked beneath the pageantry of court. The first tiny step in my loss of innocence. (Blackwell 57)

Every chapter started out like almost a thesis, laying out what was going to be the topic of focus for the following chapter. For the one mentioned above, it was a specific woman, and although she was our focus, the chapter remained oriented from Elise’s perspective and showed us a detailed scene of when the woman first appears.

I liked this organization because it showed us Elise’s whole life, but it only showed the most important parts, like a selective biography rather than a diary that showed every little aspect, which can drag and get boring at times.

This book showed that the organization of your novel/story is just as important as the story itself and can lend a great deal to the narrative of your book.

Blackwell, Elizabeth. While Beauty Slept. New York, NY: Berkley Books, 2014. Print.