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Posted on 28 Aug 2018 in SFF |

JAY KRISTOFF Lifel1k3. Reviewed by Amelia Dudley

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Lifel1k3 is the first of a new series from internationally best-selling and prize-winning Australian author Jay Kristoff.

Your body is not your own.

Your mind is not your own.

Your life is not your own.

Humorous and profound in equal measure, Lifel1k3 is a marvellous, soft science fiction piece, with a great deal of emphasis on character development. The dialogue has a certain flair:

‘… You wanna help strip this thing, or you planning to just stand there looking pretty?’

‘… This a trick question?’

In a post-apocalyptic world racked by climate change and the fallout of a nuclear conflict, major technology corporations have developed into warring states. It is only in Dregs, amongst the world’s garbage, where people aren’t under their direct control. In this no-man’s land run by gangs, Eve makes a living by fighting condemned, malfunctioning robots for the crowds. She bets all of her earnings on her next fight, hoping to secure more medication for her ailing grandfather. When everything goes wrong, losing her prized robot-busting suit and all of her savings become the least of Eve’s worries:

‘What the hells … hit m-me?’

‘Cybernetically-enhanced killing machine,’ Ana replied.

‘Is it … T-Tuesday already?’

With murderers already on her tail, Eve finds an unusual corpse in the scrap:

… riveted into the flesh and bone … was a rectangular slab of gleaming iron—a coin slot from some pre-Fall poker machine. The kind you popped money into, back when money was made of metal and people had enough of it to waste.

Even before he wakes, Eve knows that this is not the body of a human. Ezekiel is an android, one of the outlawed lifel1k3 series. These lifelikes broke the Three Laws of Robotics and killed their creator during an uprising that completely destroyed one of the corporation city states. Now this Ezekiel wants to protect her.

On the run with Ezekiel, Eve needs to discover more about the uprising and her half-remembered, nightmare past in order to survive. As far as she knows, bandits killed the rest of her family and her grandfather had to install cybernetic implants where the bullet went through her brain. A hard drive now holds Eve’s memories. More details about the attack on her family begin to resurface and Eve begins to wonder just how much of her life was a lie.

Eve trusts three of her companions: Cricket—a nervous robot who hates being called ‘little’; her best friend Lem—a girl with sass and secrets of her own; and Kaiser, Eve’s loyal cyborg Rottweiler—still a puppy at heart. But can she trust Ezekiel?

As the plot twists and turns, readers are treated to a very thoughtful take on how androids with the capacity to feel human emotions might act in their struggle for an identity of their own. There is a strong cast of complicated and relatable characters, both human and robotic.

Eve’s memories and nightmares are elegantly presented in tantalising fragments at the beginnings of chapters. As she begins to remember more, these haunting moments are revisited and continue until it all comes flooding back and several chapters are spent in her past. The transitions between past and present as important information is revealed are one of the many reasons this book remains engaging from the first to the final page.

There is no fairytale ending for this initial chapter of Eve’s journey. I respected this book all the more for that and I’m keen for the next instalment.

Jay Kristoff Lifel1k3 Allen & Unwin 2018 PB 416pp $19.99

Amelia Dudley is currently completing a Master’s degree focussing on plant biology. She is the proud auntie of many nieces and nephews. In her spare time she reads, gardens, draws, paints and doesn’t get to do enough writing.

You can buy Lifel1k3 from Abbey’s at a 10% discount by quoting the promotion code NEWTOWNREVIEW here.

To see if it is available from Newtown Library, click here.