YA Weekend: LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Series: Book 1 of Lifelike
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (May 29, 2018)
Length: 416 pages
Normally I love anything by Jay Kristoff, as you can see from my past reviews where I’ve rated all his stuff highly, but there was just something about LIFEL1K3 that fell short for me. Perhaps it was the genre or the particular subject matter of artificial intelligence, but trying to stay focused on the story was a struggle every step of the way. I also couldn’t feel connected at all to the people in this book, which is a shame because Kristoff’s characters are usually one of his greatest strengths.
LIFEL1K3 tells the story of Eve, who lives in a post-apocalyptic future where the radiation is so high that even spending a little too much time in the sun can kill you. Two years ago, her parents were murdered, and she still bears the scars of that attack in the form of cybernetic implants to see and remember. Now she lives with her grandfather, who is dying. With her talent for tinkering and building machines, Eve has been earning whatever money she can to support them by piloting robots in the popular gladiatorial arenas.
But then one day, a fight goes horribly wrong, and, in her desperation, Eve suddenly manifests a power that allows her to destroy another robot with nothing but her mind. Seen as an abomination, Eve immediately finds herself the target of bounty hunters, gangs, and mercenaries alike, who would all like to see her eliminated. Together with her best friend Lemon Fresh, their robot guardian Cricket, and a robo-dog named Kaiser, Eve has no choice but to leave her life behind and go on the run, rescuing a lifelike android boy named Ezekiel along the way.
First let me just say, while this was not by any means a bad book, there were just so many things about it that personally rubbed me the wrong way. Mainly, all the characters got on my nerves. LIFEL1K3 is technically considered a Young Adult novel, and indeed, some of the darker and heavier themes in the story seem to support this categorization. However, both Eve and Lemon both come across as much younger than their supposed ages due to some of their immature behaviors, questionable actions, and overuse of annoying slang. Not even the robot characters were innocent of this childishness. Cricket was most irritating of all with his constant disparaging of Ezekiel, calling him all sorts of names. After a while, I found myself gritting my teeth through so much of this elementary schoolyard bullshit that my jaws actually started to ache.
The author is also known to play on popular tropes in his books, but he usually puts an interesting or unique spin on them. Just take a look at his Nevernight Chronicle series to see what I mean, with the first volume based around a “Magic School” for assassins while the second one is all about the “Gladiatorial Games” action. Both books were nonetheless fantastically fun, though unfortunately I cannot bring myself to say the same for LIFEL1K3. This time, Kristoff seemed inspired to write his own “Bladerunner” type book, but then failed to really bring anything new or different to the table. His attempt at shocking revelations and twists also kind of fizzled, with many of the plot developments coming across as forced or uninspired. Worst of all, the “big reveal” was something I saw coming a mile away. This to me was the biggest disappointment, because it just seemed so uncharacteristic for Kristoff, who up until now has always managed to surprise me.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I didn’t like this book and had to force myself to finish, but I’m sure I’ll be in the minority with my opinions and that’s okay. LIFEL1K3 will no doubt find its audience, but it simply didn’t offer enough enjoyment for me personally. It was a shock for me too, that the author who brought me such favorites like The Lotus War trilogy, the Nevernight books, and The Illuminae Files (co-written with Amie Kaufman) could have written something that fell so spectacularly flat for me, but I suppose these things happen sometimes. For now, I’ll just set my sights on Darkdawn, the conclusion to the Nevernight Chronicle trilogy, which is much closer to the caliber of work I’ve come to expect from Kristoff. I’ll still enthusiastically keep an eye on his future projects after that, but I probably won’t be continuing with the LIFEL1K3 series.