My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am a huge fan of Jay Kristoff’s writing through the co-written series: the Illuminae Files, but I had never read a book that he had written by himself – until now. Lifelike is a young adult science fiction story that immediately gave me Anastasia vibes. If you’re not familiar with that story, you might not recognize the signs immediately but by about halfway through the book the author spells it out pretty plainly for you that this is a fun, space opera retelling of Anastasia.
The characters in this book were so unique and even the supporting characters felt developed, perhaps more so than our two ‘leads’. This post-apocalyptic world feels familiar, but has the unique touches and details that Kristoff brings to his books that makes them immersive. Eve was born in a world where meat comes from cans and spending too much time outside without protective gear would be guaranteed to give you cancer. While I enjoyed her character, I felt that her plot was predictable as I picked up on the fact that it was an Anastasia retelling almost immediately so there wasn’t a lot that came as a surprise to me. That being said, I still enjoyed the story even though it was predictable.
My two favourite characters in this book were the supporting characters, Lemon Fresh and Cricket. Cricket is the sassiest, most royal little robot – but don’t let him catch you calling him little. You’ll have a brawl on your hands. Lemon was also incredibly loyal, quite confident about herself and brought levity to most situations. I felt that I got to know her as a character more than our love interest, Ezekiel. I loved Ezekiel, but when actually thinking about his characterization I understand that he could have been more developed than he was. That being said, I loved getting to dive into his motivations and familial relationships.
Kristoff did a fantastic job in setting up two very varied points of view that make the reader question what side they’re on. Early on in the story, we learn that humans have been creating robots for years. Each is coded to follow the three laws, which are basically that they cannot harm and must protect humans, they must obey humans unless it would cause them harm, and must protect their own existence unless that would threaten a human.
In the realm of robots, there is a hierarchy of types and Lifelikes were at the top. They were created to be the next evolution of humanity, coded with the ability to learn and grow, stronger than a human and designed to be indistinguishable from their living counterparts. We are faced with the question of what makes something a living creature? What is a soul? The robots are subjugated and treated like slaves, but the humans think it’s okay because they aren’t actually alive. But Lifelikes can learn and love, so what separates them from humanity? You cannot firmly place yourself on the side of the robots or the humans in this eye-opening novel – whose message is just as important in today’s world as it is in the context of this story.
Despite the predictability, I had such a fun time reading this book and cannot wait to see where Kristoff takes the story next. I would highly recommend this series to fans of science fiction or retellings, as it hits the right notes for both genres.