Hot off the success of the Illuminae trilogy, Jay Kristoff launches a new science fiction series that also mines deeply from and mashes elements of the science fiction pantheon. Just in case readers might be in any doubt, the cover described Lifel1k3 as “Romeo and Juliet meets Mad Max meets X-Men with a little bit of Blade Runner cheering from the sidelines”. The Romeo and Juliet reference refers to the romantic tropes that seem to drive every YA book that has been released this century. And there is more than a little bit of Blade Runner here given this is a post-apocalyptic tale focussing humanoid robots. But Lifel1k3 has deeper and older antecedents – Isaac Asimov’s robot books, particularly his famous three laws of robotics, and Pinocchio.
Eve drives a robot fighter in a post-apocalyptic California. When a fight goes bad and she exhibits a mental power that fries electrical circuits she becomes a target of local religious nutters, street gangs, corporations and a group of murderous, super strong, self-healing humanoid robots called Lifelikes. She goes on the run with her best friend Lemon Fresh, a small snarky robot called Cricket, a robot dog and a Lifelike who claims he is trying to protect her but who she can not trust. The rest is constant action, propelled by revelations of Eve’s past and outing of her companions’ secrets.
As with the Illuminae books, Lifel1k3 gives YA readers plenty of what they love – sassy characters (who continue to be sassy even under heavy fire), a doomed romance with an impossibly caring and good looking partner, OMG twists, pop culture references and a plot that rarely pauses for breath. And they will love it. But older readers looking for similar themes and references in recent releases may prefer the more nuanced worlds of Annalee Neuwitz’s Autonomous or C Robert Cargill’s Sea of Rust.
This review first appeared in Aurealis #112, Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine, www.aurealis.com.au.