3.5 stars, rounded up because I ultimately liked it.
Is it weird to judge a series of which you haven’t read the first installment? Well, I started reading with The Deaths of Tao, which I got as part of this year’s Hugo package and, while I do intend to read The Lives of Tao at some point, I do not feel the urge to do it right now. Apart from some initial confusion, Death and Rebirth stand well on their own.
My main impression of Rebirths, however, is that it doesn’t feel like the last book in a series – more like the middle one, where the tide turns and the game changes. I’ll echo the sentiment of another reviewer: we’re told the world is about to end, but we don’t really get much sense of urgency. And while we hope for our underdog heroes to be able to bring down the Genjix, Chu needs to minimize the impact of their actions so he can write more stories in this world. Win the fight, prolong the war, so to speak.
This driving slowly into the apocalypse has also the ultimate side effect of having our characters react rather than act most of the time. While it’s entertaining to watch the heroes get repeatedly kicked like sacks of potatoes, to me it gets very close to that stretching point where I find it almost unbelievable that they can win in the end by anything but sheer, dumb luck.
Cameron. Well. Portraying a non-annoying teenage character in the middle of a bunch of adults is never easy, especially when one of them is thousands of years old and in his head, and Chu manages – barely. I find his chapters to be the weakest of the bunch, though (thankfully) he never manages to be so annoying as Enzo. Dude. Mental sparring with your Holy One is one thing, but when you never agree on anything, maybe you’re just not a very good host.
You might be asking how this book can get a 4 when I seem to have disliked so much of it.
First: I only niggle about things that emotion me. I don’t get argumentative about stuff that leaves me ‘meh’.
Second: Roen. It’s evident that this is the character that Chu has the better grip on, that has the best humour and most of the best lines, and who he loves more to beat up to an inch of his life. There could be a miniseries of just Roen slamming into things while trying to make a sandwich. It’s that good.