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Two things up front: I think ‘LIFEL1K3’ is a great novel, essentially a sci-fi novel, and I think readers might either just love it or hate it. Not much in between. And I have to say just a few things about it right before/on release day, even though there have been so many reviews and I already know that this wild and crazy book by the behemoth (in more than one way) Jay Kristoff will be a success no matter what.
The success of the Illuminae Files (written with Amie Kaufmann), and the books ‘Nevernight‘ and ‘Godsgrave’, immediately meant that ‘LIFEL1K3’, once announced, was on everyone’s TBR lists and getting preordered right out the gate. But I think so many books (especially by big name YA authors) are getting pre-judged based on hype, so I really want to try and write about the book I read; ‘LIFEL1K3’ seems to be one of those books that will have people buying ahead, and I hope the right readers are there for it.
The thing that Kristoff does so very well is world-building, and from the time you open the book until long after you finish it, you are thrust into a post-apocalyptic Earth that barely resembles the one we live on today. Kalifornya is now called Dregs and is (surprise) an island after the big Quake, and has split from the the rest of the Grande Ol’ Yousay. There has been War 4.0 and the land is desolate, scrap piles of piles of metal and junk lay waste where gangs try and salvage what they can for weapon parts or for machina building. The environment has now become so blisteringly hot, that it’s dangerous to be out in sun without protective clothing let alone SPF (what’s that now?). Real food is the thing of the past, and now Neo-Meat (trade-marked, I might add), that comes in a can is what humans must subsist on: salty colon, anyone?
But this is all small fry when it comes to the entirety of the world that Jay has created; he has created a whole way of speaking for this book, new words (how does he come up with all this stuff?), and envisioned humans living in a future with not only robots, androids, but also a type of more human-droid called (naturally) LIFEL1K3s. They are so real in terms of how similar they are to humans, it’s frightening, but with advanced abilities to heal.
This is the crux of the story. The merry band of characters that Kristoff has centered the novel around: Eve, Cricket, Lemon Fresh, Kaiser (a mechanical dog, a blitzhund), meet Ezekiel, a LIFEL1K3, who tells Evie that she is actually Ana, and everything goes crazy from that point onwards. It starts with giant bot fights and that isn’t the craziest part of the book. There is so much action in this book that it’s hard to describe too much, but given that readers will be largely from a YA audience, and that they will be met with a major amount of science fiction, they may be surprised at how it does not slow down; once you are in, you must commit to a sci-fi novel. I really feel like it’s less YA, and intensely post-apocalyptic and science-fiction. There is definitely romance in this book, and a plot line where ‘Lil Evie’ is tryin to come to terms with her identity and her past, but while you can take a breather more easily with the Illuminae Files, thanks to the format, this is far more immersive. Kristoff has done a fantastic job at making the reader feel entirely swept up into this world; just like the characters who are stuck in their fates, the reader must stay entirely absorbed to grasp everything going on.
I’d say that ‘LIFEL1K3’ is a book like nothing I’ve read before and it leaves you feeling a little bit chewed up and breathless. And with a major cliffhanger. I will expect that some readers may feel like that wasn’t what they were expecting but if you go along for the ride you will have read some genius.