“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?”
I will admit that I was hesitant at first to delve into The Rise of Io. I really enjoyed Wesley Chu’s Tao trilogy and I was worried that all he was going to do was reboot his series by just adding a female protagonist set in India. While I did find some of the early plotting of the story to be very similar his first trilogy, eventually the author won me over with Ella, a feisty, street-smart heroine. Her snarky attitude and just as often, her bullheadedness became the high-point of this new series.
And Io is a complex Quasing who has made more mistakes in her long-time on Earth. In some ways, she reflects humans whom seem to make one misstep after another and thus begin to have conflicted loyalties. You root for her, and Ella, but as the story progresses you see that like many of us, she is the author of her problems.
What I liked was Ella, a well conceived character who is flawed, but can take care of herself. She belongs to the new reality of modern science fiction writing where a diverse cast is all on equal footing. But while Ella does not really need anyone, including Io, she is still a human being. So under that tough exterior, that snarky dark humor, is a girl who has taken care of herself most of her life, who really does not care about the alien conflict going on around her, but who shines with pride when someone acknowledges that she is not helpless.
A nice start, The Rise of Io is.