LifeL1k3 by Jay Kristoff
Published: July 26th 2018 by Harper Collins
“Your past doesn’t make calls on your future. It doesn’t matter who you were. Only who you are.”
“Your body is not your own. Your mind is not your own. Your life is not your own.”
It’s just another day on the Scrap: lose the last of your credits at the WarDome, dodge the gangs and religious fanatics, discover you can destroy electronics with your mind, stumble upon the deadliest robot ever built…
When Eve finds 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 and her robotic sidekick in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, battle cyborg assassins, and scour abandoned megacities to save the ones she loves…and learn the dark secrets of her past.
This was my first book written by Jay alone, as most who have read my blog before will know I’ve read and loved both the Illuminae Files books and Aurora Rising, all of which are written by Jay in partnership with Amie Kaufman. I applied unsuccessfully for an ARC copy but did manage to win an early copy in a raffle by Harper Collins at YALC last year anyway and it’s taken me just under a year to finally getting around to reading it but I wanted to make sure if I liked it that I would be ready for Dev1at3 coming out in June which I’m now super excited for. As always I have included the Goodreads blurb but Jay himself also added his own synopsis to which I think does the book more justice.
“In the wake of an uprising in a post-apocalyptic USA, the robotic populace have been reduced to slaves, and androids (robots who look like humans) have been outlawed. LIFEL1K3 is about a girl named Eve and her best friend Lemon, who find a ruined android in a scrap heap – an almost-boy named Ezekiel, who knows the truth behind the robotic revolt. Shenanigans ensue.
It features (in no particular order) Giant Mechanical War Machines. Sexah Androids. Mutant Powers. Doomed Romance. Warring Corporations. Cybernetic Bounty Hunters. Sassy Robot Sidekicks. Rebellions. Chases. Escapes. Betrayals. Lies Upon Lies. Splosions.
My elevator pitch was “Romeo and Juliet meets Bladerunner, while Fury Road plays a guitar solo in the background.”
Jay’s writing style is very much the same in LifeL1k3 as in his collaborative works which has a nice amount of snark, wit and humour. There is a fair use of slang throughout which felt a little distracting and not needed at first but didn’t hugely bother me after a while so wasn’t a huge problem and just a niggle for me. The action scenes engrossing and you can absolutely feel the Fury Road vibes in them, especially one scene particular where I was waiting for Cricket to yell witness me and spray some weird aerosol over himself (I enjoyed Fury Road but didn’t especially understand a chunk of it). The pacing feels a little stop and start in that it’s either going 100 mph or crawling along. I’m all for non-action scenes, not everything has to be fighting or running or shooting etc but there were a couple of parts that just felt slow and although they were definitely needed in part to help move the story along they felt too long to me for the purpose they served (think Canto Bight in TLJ but not as bad).
Characters were a mixed bag for me, although I didn’t particularly dislike any of the characters I did find that I absolutely favoured Lemon Fresh, the main characters best friend, their sidekick A.I robot Cricket and their blitzhund dog called Kaiser over the main character and (mild spoiler) love interest. Lemon is sassy, funny and fiercely loyal her friendship with Eve is inspiring but doesn’t mean that she takes the usual best friend back seat slot where they may as well not be there, she’s important and intrinsic to the story with tales of her own under her belt. Crickets fighting talk despite being small enough to sit on Eve’s shoulder (just don’t mention it to him) is brilliant, he’s picked up the way Lem and Eve speak to each other and is always back talking and using human phrases that he’s obviously learned while also adhering to the three laws of robotics and doing his best to protect and keep both Eve and Lemon safe. Poor little guy tries so hard to be the voice of reason to two very strong-willed, independent teenagers who usually ignore his advice and I absolutely feel for him. Kaiser, part meat, part metal guard dog and beloved pet doesn’t say a word but is described perfectly and is just honestly the best good boy and deserves all the pets in the world.
Main character Eve, is certainly an in intriguing character and I did enjoy reading about her and her struggles but I think she spends so much of the book struggling with her identity and trying to work out what kind of person she is that I found it harder to bond with her like I had with Lemon. My disinterest in Zeke was more personal preference really as he’s certainly written well and has a great arc and backstory but he just felt too perfect to me and I know he’s meant to be physically perfect (and don’t get me wrong, he sounds gorgeous) but I just found him to be too flat for me, I’m sure others will like him though because he is pretty swoon-worthy even with his perceived flaws. After the events that transpire in this book, however, I am now basically chomping at the bit to get more narrative from the two of them in Dev1at3.
I’m told it wouldn’t be a Jay Kristoff book without some twists and there were definitely a good few of those. Having read Aurora Rising very recently I noticed that the way the twists unfolded in LifeL1k3 are hugely similar to the way a particular twist in AR turned out. I refer not to the content of the twists themselves but more the way each felt as a reader in that for both by the time the reveal comes around it is just a confirmation of the mind-blowing revelation you’ve already had and suspected. This feels strange and I’m not sure how on purpose it is but it gives me as a reader the feeling of “oh look how smart I am to have put all these pieces together and figured this out” even if often it’s only a few pages (or in the case of AR a few lines) before the full reveal happens. At first, I was unsure if this just meant the story was predictable and I think some have understandably felt that way, especially if you’re very used to not having a clue about said twist until it’s quite literally spelt out for you which is a fantastic moment when a plot point completely blindsides you (see basically every book by Lauren James) and you then spend the next half an hour thinking back on all the clues you missed thinking “of course!! How did I miss this?!” Instead, LifeL1k3 (and AR) give you a different kind of reveal that I felt like I earned a bit more and now that I’m used to them I’m looking forward to more to come.
Overall I didn’t find LifeL1k3 to quite be a XXXXX rating for me but found it hugely enjoyable none the less and would happily recommend it. The sequel Dev1at3 is out June 25th 2019 (just under a month away now) and with L1feL1k3 being only £1.99 on Kindle right now this is pretty much the best time to get into the series.