Series: Lifelike #1
Published by Allen & Unwin on May 1, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
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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.
When you think about an A.I. book, when they become self aware and threaten to take over the world, what do you think of? From I Robot, to Terminator, there’s always some sort of all out war with the robots vs humans. Thankfully in Lifel1ke, it doesn’t go down this path and instead explores some interesting questions of morality from the perspective of two young teenage girls – one called Eve, who has the power to melt robots, and another called Lemon Fresh, with snarky robot companions to boot. Eve’s story was really fascinating to follow, as she learns to navigate the scrapheap junkyard with her best friend Lemon Fresh and doggy companion Kaiser, and snarky robot (think R2D2) Cricket.
The cybernetic world filled with A.I. entities, from androids, goliaths, logika, to humanoid-like lifelikes was really creative and fascinating to read about. I loved the juxtaposition between this futuristic world filled with tech and self aware robots, but also with Eve and Lemon’s world where they have to pit robots against each other to make a living.
Just from the blurb and the front cover alone, you can already tell that Lifel1k3 draws upon a mishmash of genres and franchises. While I think it resembled some of these more than others (for example, I don’t think the Xmen or Romeo and Juliet labels were quite accurate), there were some other influences that the book drew on more heavily, such as Pinocchio and Anastasia. What results is a unique story about a girl finding her place in a world, with heavy themes of morality and Frankenstein-like creationism as the lifelikes descend on Eve and Lemon Fresh.
Imagine having all your capacity for love and hate and joy and rage and only a couple of years to learn to handle all of it. Sometimes it feels like a flood inside my mind, and it’s all I can do not to drown.
Even though it’s Jay Kristoff’s first solo foray into YA, it really doesn’t shy away from heavy themes, and I found myself needing to step back a few times as I was reading the story. Whether it was the constant twists and turns, the slang and lingo that was used to illustrate this futuristic world, the outlandish character personalities or the many robot entities that it featured, I found it helpful to keep on flicking back throughout the story. It’s also punctuated with many twists and turns, some which I saw coming but some which I did not, that heavily affected my thoughts and feelings about the whole book when I reached the very end. Lifel1k3 is definitely not a predictable book, and it’s not one that you should go in with expectations because it keeps on shifting along the way.
But your father was no saint. He was a would-be god, building a better brand of servant. He gave us life, but he intended us to live it on our knees. And that was just as wrong.
One of my favourite things about the book was the strong characterisation of Lemon Fresh, the 15 year old best friend of Eve’s. While I found Eve to be a little bland, especially with her romantic entanglement with Ezekiel, Lemon Fresh in all her sparkle, pizzazz and extreme loyalty when it comes to her best friend was welcoming to read about. She’s frighteningly optimistic but she definitely holds no bars when it comes to shooting down other A.I. or trusting the “corporation”. I’m definitely excited to read more about Lemon Fresh in the sequel.
The concept of lifelikes was really interesting, I loved hearing about them being self aware and how they are basically 3 month old infants in fully grown human forms – so they’re learning to navigate the world at an incredibly accelerated pace. While this lead to a really bland romance plotline with Ezekiel and Eve, with insta-love that was pretty frustrating to read about, I can see why this had to occur. I still didn’t really appreciate his character though, I think he was a boring love interest.
I also had an issue with the ableism in the novel – Ezekiel has one arm blown off at the start of the book, with his head caved in. He’s constantly referred to by Cricket as “stumpy” and “braintrauma” which I thought was really inappropriate language, especially when the character himself is actually disabled. There is also some animal cruelty towards the dog androids – they’re robots, but seeing some of it occur was still a bit frustrating.
Lifel1k3 won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved the incredibly creative story filled with robots, lifelike creations, the snarky banter and the questions of morality and ‘what makes you human’. It’s a book where after getting to the end, I immediately wanted to re-read again now that I was aware of all the twists.
Content warnings: ableism, animal cruelty, animal deaths
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thanks to Allen & Unwin Australia for sending me a review copy!
Lifel1k3 is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$19.99 or from The Book Depository.
Author Q&A with Jay Kristoff
When Jay was in town for his Lifel1ke Launch (check out my vlog of the event here), we caught up for a brief interview of Lifel1ke!
Check out my Q&A on my Youtube channel, or below.