On an island junkyard beneath a sky that glows with radiation, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap. Seventeen-year-old Eve isn’t looking for trouble–she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she spent months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, she’s on the local gangster’s wanted list, and the only thing keeping her grandpa alive is the money she just lost to the bookies. Worst of all, she’s discovered she can somehow destroy machines with the power of her mind, and a bunch of puritanical fanatics are building a coffin her size because of it. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it. The problem is, Eve has had a worse day–one that lingers in her nightmares and the cybernetic implant where her memories used to be. Her discovery of a handsome android named Ezekiel–called a “Lifelike” because they resemble humans–will bring her world crashing down and make her question whether her entire life is a lie. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic sidekick Cricket in tow, Eve will trek across deserts of glass, battle unkillable bots, and infiltrate towering megacities to save the ones she loves…and learn the truth about the bloody secrets of her past.
A Sci-fi Triumph
There was no question that I would like this book–I’m a big fan of Jay’s work with Amie Kaufman–but I was surprised by how much I liked it. Jay has a reputation around the interwebs as being….how shall we say….ruthless with his characters. I expected that to be a bit too much for me. But it wasn’t. I devoured LIFEL1K3 in a single weekend. Incongruously, in fact, during a weekend in which I was participating in wedding festivities.
LIFEL1K3 is a triumph. It is somehow both futuristic and grounded, brutal and yet hopeful. The future version of the US that Jay has created makes perfect sense, with attitudes and language that are fresh enough to help the reader see things a little differently, but not so extreme in world-building as to distract from the plot. In my reading, at least, that’s a rare skill.
The publisher’s copy says this book is part Romeo and Juliet, part Terminator. Those descriptions do nothing for me. Instead, I was drawn by the historical and literary allusions woven into the story–Anastasia, Pinocchio, Greek myths, biblical themes. It’s neat to see those story threads woven into the brutal and broken landscape of this future world.
Ah, the brutality. Let’s talk about that, shall we? If you follow Jay Kristoff on Twitter, as I have for months now before reading one of his stand-alone books, you will regularly see him respond to readers tweeting something along the lines of, “WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY 😭😱😭”
Encouraging, right? I’m not big on anguished books, which may be part of why it took me so long to get around to reading LIFEL1K3. But….I didn’t find it especially devastating. Oh, there are certainly brutal parts, both physically and emotionally. I’m not here to destroy Jay’s rep for that. But they made sense. They fit the story, the character’s need for growth, the natural consequences of choices made earlier. They were, in fact, such excellent writing that I think I forgot to be upset about what was happening.
LIFEL1K3 was a thoroughly enjoyable read, with writing that resonated deep in my soul. It manages a number of complex elements and ideas with such finesse that it’s hard not to be in awe. I look forward to the rest of the series.
Highly recommended for older YA readers, sci-fi fans, and readers looking to break into sci-fi or just to read something outside their normal zones.