In a post-apocalyptic version of the US, robots of varying AI are commonplace. Eve (our heroine) lives with her grandpa who is dying of the Big C, bestest friend Lemon Fresh with a sassy attitude, tiny robot Cricket who has a Napoleon Complex, and mechanical explodey dog Kaiser in the wastelands that used to be California, but is now an island of Mad Max gangs. After losing a gladiator bot execution, Eve’s world flips upside down when some magic higglety-pigglety occurs and then a beautifully perfect android appears out of the sky, only to tell her she is in trouble. Warring corporations, religious cyborg bounty hunters, crazy car chases in storms of glass, and angelic androids holed up in an ivory tower of radiation ensue with twists and turns along the way for good measure.
By now, if you follow my blog, you know I love Jay Kristoff’s books. The dude seriously knows how to write. His characteristic wit, goofiness, fun just oozes from this book. He still uses his lyric style to great ability here and even though this is a true YA story (as opposed to the stabby bitch of a daughter in Nevernight – his words) it still feels like a Kristoff book. The pace is super quick, and even though there are the world terms to learn, it is never expositiony or info-dumpy, it all feels natural, and once you learn them, you barely remember why you didn’t know them before.
And then in true Kristoff fashion, there are twists galore. No spoilers, but most were easy to see coming (YA level here), but the ending was a twist I saw coming, then BOOM, another twist I didn’t expect. The ending left on such a cliffhanger, but it still felt as if this book reached a satisfying conclusion. Yes, I know there is another book coming out next Spring, but even if it didn’t, I could be satisfied with the ending (though, let’s be honest, this story HAS to continue).
That said, I really enjoy the group of characters in Eve’s circle. Cricket and Lemon Fresh are really fun and I think they not only provide the comic relief, but also exhibit the true friend relationship that many books fail to show. While Lemon is this perky little street orphan who sasses the crap out of everyone around her, she does have this softer underbelly and loves Eve because she was the only one to see her as a person. And Cricket, even though he is programmed to love/protect Eve, he does challenge the Laws within the world. That and his constant quips about his shiny man parts reminds me so much of Bender from Futurama.
Eve is a wonderfully flawed main character. As the story goes on and she learns more about who she is, her confusion and coming to grips with those revelations are very realistic. Her emotions flare to either side all the time and I think that is something real people would do when they learn what she learns. Her relationship to the other characters is also something that works really well. Sure she has the YA love interest (see below…) but one thing you don’t see a ton these days in SFF stories is flat out friendship. I think that is missing in most SFF books because the focus tends to be on heroes saving the day on these massively detailed quests and journeys, and that usually entails the hero/heroine doing things alone, or when with a team, it is usually about the plot. Not in LifeL1k3. Kristoff makes this story about the characters and with Lemon, Cricket, Kaiser, and Eve, their friendship is just as important as the plot. And I like that.
The world itself is really fun. Dystopias are still chugging along but this world feels both unique and relevant to what we are dealing with today in the US. But what I really like about this world is that there are massive shout-outs to other artists without making them overt. I already said there is a Mad Max feel in the area Eve lives. Gangs on bikes wielding anything from baseball bats to flamethrowers. But then there is the city called Armada, made up of landlocked ships of all shapes, which obviously brings to mind China Mieville’s The Scar (not to mention the Kraken). Then toss in the AI androids of the Bladerunner series. This amalgamation of cool and differing stories really blend nicely in Kristoff’s world.
What doesn’t work:
So here is me harping on 1st person again…Here me out, though. In this story, we get 1st person flashbacks of an event integral to the plot. I don’t mind these, in fact, I really liked them. They fleshed out the story in important ways while also building that inherent conflict. However, there was a part in the middle where instead of brief flashbacks that were half a page at most, it went into a detailed backstory that lasted many pages. In that section, I was not a fan. Yeah it was important to the overall story, but to me, it was excessive.
I get it, this is YA and all, but I really didn’t care for the instant love story here. It connects to the flashback, but, yeah, not a fan. I really didn’t like the Lifelike’s “all I do, I do for you” mantra. I get it, he’s a robot and all that, but even when all the shit hits the fan, it felt contrived, too easy. I wish there was a bit more drag, more slowly developed. But eh, that’s just me.
4 out of 5
I really liked this book, I love all of Kristoff’s books, his style just speaks to me. This is a really cool introduction into an intriguing world and I’m interested to see where he goes with it based on the ending.