I turned the first page of this book while wedged in an old camp chair beside a dry river bed winding its way through Trephina Reserve, Central Australia, my beanie snug over my ears, my head torch pressing firmly between my eyes, and my puffy jacket-hood tucked in close around my cheeks and throat. It was the fourth book I’d started on my holiday to the Red Centre, camping in isolated bush camps and camping grounds hidden at the end of corrugated dirt roads.

I had a lot of time to read. Also, e-Readers are awesome. I had a whole library in my pocket; never did I fear that I would run out of things to read!

This book had been on my must read for a while. It kept popping up. A friend recommended it. It was a neat stack of the books at my local bookshop. A writing group brought up the author’s name. I’d also wanted to read more books written about multi-cultural and diverse characters by diverse authors.

The Rise of Io is set in India, and (besides Paolo Bacigalupi’s SF, which is often set in places like Thailand) it’s not a setting that I’ve read a lot of in SF fiction. It was colourful and flavourful and the crowded neighbourhoods in India lend to the idea of a place called Crate Town, a town built from shipping containers that arose after an alien war.

Chu’s aliens are parasitic. Having crashed on Earth when life was still in its early stages of evolution, these creatures survived by taking hosts, unable to move onto the next until their current host has died. While unable to directly control their host, they seek to gently influence the fish, lizards and mammals that they live within, until of course humans come along and suddenly they’re dealing with the emotional and irrational thoughts that makes us different from most other life on earth. Io is one of these alien parasites.

When Io meets Ella Patel, they’re suddenly dealing with someone who is stubborn, ambitious, has a conflicting set of beliefs (while Ella wants to do the right thing, she won’t say no to being paid to do so), and fiercely loyal of Crate Town.

There’s a lot going on under the surface, and there are enough clues dropped to hint at the reveal fairly early on if you’re looking out for them. I’m not sure about the ending and I won’t discuss it here to avoid spoilers, but it seems a little abrupt. I assume this is on purpose to make the reader come to their own conclusions.

Overall, it was a great twist on the alien invasion trope in a vivid setting with a strong, female lead who’s greatest trait is her ability to survive. Would recommend!