LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on May 29, 2018
Series: Lifelike #1
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 416 pages Source: NetGalley
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On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.
Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.
But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.
Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
First, a small confession.
I blog mostly YA, and I have never read a Jay Kristoff novel before. I have them all on my TBR. Nevernight. Illuminae. Stormdancer. I have always intended to read him, but I just haven’t gotten to that place on my TBR list yet.
So, as a small blog with no fangirling history of Jay Kristoff, imagine my surprise when NetGalley emails me with it’s perfunctory “Congratulations! You may now download your copy of LIFEL1K3!” Color me pleased! I knew this was an anticipated novel and I can think of so many other bloggers who would have killed to have this one early. I am determined to do it justice! And being completely honest? I loved it.
I’m telling you this as a convert to Jay’s work. In reading some other blogger’s reviews on Goodreads, I’m seeing a lot of 3 star reviews. It’s the same chorus: “I’ve read all this before” and “I liked his other books better.” I’m actually quite pleased now that I haven’t read all the rest, because I can’t imagine saying that about this book.
To all those people who were disappointed, I’m sorry, buuuut- here’s a different review
So, guys. LIFEL1K3.
It’s gritty and harrowing but also light and edgy. There’s love, there’s friendship, there’s that awkward place where we discover who we are. The world is brilliantly done, with some form of slow danger always on the horizon. It had feels of everything from Gunslinger Girl to Westworld to Mad Max to X-Men. In some places, yes, it was predictable… but not the entire book, at least not for me. There were things I expected that didn’t happen. Then there were things I predicted, but then Jay took them one step further. You’ve probably read similar books before, but you haven’t read this book.
The world is in a state of nuclear wasteland. Food is biologically engineered. Cancer leaks across the land from irradiated areas like a slow tide of inevitable death. There are glass deserts and heaps of junk piles with discarded scrap metal sits in wait to be salvaged. There are bio-ships combing the oceans for unblemished DNA. In the short space of 400 pages the reader is taken through a variety of post-apocalyptic environments and they’re all fresh and interesting.
Characters vary, depending on your tastes. I adored Miss Lemon Fresh from my nose all the way down to the tips of my toes. And, Cricket made me chuckle. He’s this little robot with so much attitude. Y’all seen Futurama? He’s Bender.
Okay, he’s Bender with a slightly better attitude. But I loved it.
LIFEL1K3 was one of those books where I connected so much more with the minor characters than the leads. Evie and Ezekiel were there and they were fine but I wasn’t particularly interested in them much of the time. I would like more of Lemon and Cricket though please, ASAP.
In reading LIFEL1K3, I gained respect for the subtleties in Jay Kristoff’s writing.
Sometimes, this book felt like Ready Player One in that I kept finding ways it seemed to reference things I like in such a quiet way that… I’m not sure if it was intentional or I’m just reading into things? Like the bit above, with Cricket. Almost every time he had a line of dialogue, I thought of Futurama. Not in a copy cat kind of way? More like, “Hey, I feel like he must be a fan of this show, too.” The book appealed to me more because of the writer than the characters. Which is weird. I think the only other time I’ve had that happen was with Kiersten White.
The biggest example I have here is the Romanovs. I keep galavanting across Goodreads and Twitter about how please I am about this. If you haven’t read the book yet and you know anything about the Romanovs and Anastasia and Rasputin (etc., that period of history) and YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS. SKIP TO THE DIVIDER LINE.
HAVE YOU SKIPPED. If you are still reading, you are acknowledging that I MAY SPOIL SOMETHING.
Okay, your life is in your own hands.
So, early on in this book, you meet a character named Ana. You hear a little about her father Nic and her siblings (Ophelia, Marie, Alex… there’s a couple more, but I can’t remember them all off the top of my head). Ana is an important character in the story as things go on and you learn her family’s history and legacy. Then finally about three quarters of the way through, Ana is referred to as “Anastasia Monrova”. The last name “Monrova” was thrown around before, but at that point, paired with Anastasia, a lightbulb lit up in my head.
God, I love that feeling.
So I did a bit of Googling and found Anastasia Romanov easily, and another lightbulb went off that if you move some letters around, “Monrova” becomes “Romanov”. THEN EVERYTHING FELL INTO PLACE. It was this beautiful dance, where Nicholas became Nikolai and Ophelia became Olga and Alex became Alexei and YES YES YES. And parts of the story plot I knew so far became to fall in line with the historical narrative as well.
And I worry that a lot of the book’s audience won’t see this, because the story of Anastasia was more commonly known in my childhood thanks to the animated film. BUT IF YOU KNOW THE STORY. Guys, this is an AI dystopian futuristic retelling and continuation of a really interesting piece of Russian history. It’s not being advertised like this at all. And Jay Kristoff left it off which just as many questions as Anastasia’s real story and I demand more.
It’s not just a regular “girl-meets-machine, questions who she is, and there are also big robots” story. It’s a retelling. And gah, please someone else tell me you also came to this conclusion? Because in reading the reviews on Goodreads I hear everyone talking about the love story and the mutations and the robots and I want to scream that everyone is missing the heart of the story beneath its shiny exterior.
Okay, spoiler done.
So, like I said, I really really enjoyed LIFEL1K3. A lot of my reasons are spoilery, so
if when you do decide to read the book, please come back and lets talk about that spoilery part up there. I need to know that other people caught it and appreciated it.
LIFEL1K3 comes out on May 29th – 8 more days! If you haven’t already pre-ordered – there’s still time! And for US citizens, there’s pre-order swag!