Stared at the page in shock
Walked around the house a few times
Went back and reread the last few pages again
Went online to check release date for Lifel1k3 book 2 (you’ll be thrilled to know there is ZERO information about the 2nd book)
I’ve read other books by Kristoff, books that he’s co-authored, even finished an entire trilogy. What I mean is that I should have been prepared, mentally and emotionally for what this book was going to put me through. And he still managed to blind-side me.
Lifel1k3 takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where, after another World War, the world has been reduced to a nuclear wasteland. The planet is dying, the USA no longer exists (we don’t know how the rest of the world fared) and the existing pockets of human civilisation are either corporate run establishments or detritus that’s been strung together and become so much more than anyone could have imagined. Androids, droids and robots are as common as people and it is fairly common to see one. The people in this wasteland are cut-throat and hardened after years of living on the brink of extinction, they’ve had to become ruthless or they would have died like those who came before them.
Enter Evie Carpenter, our protagonist. A seventeen year old girl with blonde hair and a fauxhawk. She isn’t too concerned about the state of the world, save for making sure that she can get the drugs her grandfather needs to survive and staying out of the way or rival scavenging gangs. We soon learn that she has a superpower and far from protecting her, these powers make her the target of a puritanical religious gang and a relentless bounty hunter. She’s not having a great week. She’s joined by her trusted gang of misfits, there’s Lemon Fresh, Cricket (a cyborg), Kaiser (her dog, also a cyborg). They are joined by Ezekiel, an android, who claims to know Eve and wants to help her.
You have to hand it to Kristoff, the world-building is excellent. It is a bleak world with glass storms, vast swathes of desert, an entire city built from ships/boats that washed ashore after a tsunami and areas that are so highly irradiated that even a few hours there would be a death sentence. My only complaint is that we don’t know how the rest of the world is doing. I would have liked a little more information in that regard. The world/setting is very much a part of the action and feels tangible especially once you consider that this world isn’t so far removed from the future we’re headed towards.
In the long line of Kristoff heroines, Eve is a worthy addition. She’s spunky, she’s brave and while she can be impulsive, she’s also capable to weighing her options and then going with the most sensible alternative (this is all relative of course) Eve learns more about herself as their travels continue and must to come to terms with her blood-soaked past. Truly though, this girl deserves a long vacation, preferable some place cool.
My favourite character though is Lemon Fresh. She is the side-kick though it’s best not to say it to her face. She’s the sassy one and I loved her friendship with Eve, they always have each others’ backs even when it means putting their own lives in jeopardy. I loved Lemon’s one liners and her banter was often funny. Under all that though, she was tough as nails and did not let anyone intimidate her. Easily the stand-out character in the book.
What can I say about Cricket and Kaiser except that I loved them. Cricket was always hilarious and was reminiscent of Gemini Cricket, but one with a foul mouth and not a very happy disposition. Kaiser may not have been a real dog but he won me over immediately. He was adorable. A very good boy indeed.
Silas Carpenter, Eve’s grandfather and her only surviving relative, he also becomes a grandfather to Lemon Fresh. We don’t see much of him but we find out pretty quickly, that he would do anything to keep the girls safe. He risks everything to keep Eve safe and make sure that she can take care of herself.
Next up Ezekiel. He’s an android, he looks like a real human, albeit a very handsome one but physically, he’s much stronger than a regular human, has faster healing abilities and can even regrow entire body parts, in other words, he’s very hard to kill. Those like him are called Lifelike, they were created by Nicholas Monrova, modelled upon his biological children meant to be companions but that plan goes so horribly wrong.
The one thing that bothered me throughout Lifel1k3 was the relationship between Ezekiel and Eve. Zeke has been alive a little over 2 years and yet his love for Eve is so intense that I can’t help but wonder if it’s actually real or if he just imprinted on her. That absolute love just rings false.
Lifel1k3 did explore some interesting themes like that of giving sentience/intelligence to a machine but still binding it to human will, sentencing it to a life of servitude. Giving them the ability to fall in love, to make their choices but never the freedom to fully explore either. Treating them like family but turning on them for the smallest misdemeanour. Never allowing them to make mistakes, a crucial part of growing up.
Of all the Lifelikes, Hope and Raphael touched me. Hope, because she made a massive mistake but then spent her life after that, trying to make amends, by helping people who had no one else to turn to. And then staying back to and trying to save people at the cost of her own personal safety. And Raphael because he saw his own limited existence, a Pinocchio who could never turn into a real boy. My heart broke for them.
Okay Spoiler time:
I’m confused by the end of the book. Has Eve become an antagonist now? She brought Gabriel back and called him brother and also sent Lemon, Cricket and Zeke away. I don’t know how I feel about that. Good people died to make sure she was safe and I’m not sure making her an antagonist is a good pay-off for all that angst. I think she needs to come to peace with what she is but honestly, I don’t know what her future arc is. Also, at this stage, apart from Zeke, the only other two lifelikes alive are Gabriel and Faith and I’m curious what Eve means to do with them. Also the real Ana is brain dead, so she is essentially dead and can’t be brought back, so what does it mean that her body is still (on machines) being kept alive somewhere?
Like Nevernight, the world of Lifel1k3 might take you some time to fully get into it but once you do, it will be tough to put the book aside. It’s fast-paced chock-a-block full of action, add to that it has some really bad-ass characters (human and otherwise) and a plot that will keep you hooked from beginning to end. Very highly recommended! Do not sleep on this people!