In a brutal, blasted country called the Yousay (USA, of course), hostile androids contend against regular humans and superpowered mutants against a backdrop of robot death matches, in a dystopian Mad Max type of world. DEV1AT3 (2019) is the sequel to LIFEL1K3, which should be read first. Obligatory warning: This review ― not to mention a helpful four-page glossary that author Jay Kristoff provides at the very beginning of DEV1AT3 ― contains a few major spoilers for LIFEL1K3. (Those spoilers are also in this book’s blurb.)
Eve has spent her entire life thinking she was human, until discovering at the end of LIFEL1K3 that she’s an extremely realistic android, called a Lifelike, indistinguishable from humans except for their extreme strength, speed and self-healing powers. Deeply bitter about all the lies she’s been told, Eve has joined five of the six remaining Lifelikes in the search for Ana Monrovia, the daughter of their founder who was injured and hidden away in suspended animation. Ana is the key to unlocking some old Monrovia technology, including the information needed create more Lifelikes and a nanovirus that erases the Three Laws (protect yourself, obey humans and, most importantly, don’t kill humans) from a robot’s core code. The Lifelikes already have this Libertas virus, but are intent on obtaining it and spreading it to all of robotdom.
Meanwhile, Eve’s former best friend, human fifteen-year-old Lemon Fresh, has been hiding a “deviate” mental superpower all her life: the ability to overload electronics and burn them out. Lemon and the one remaining Lifelike who is friendly to humans, Ezekiel, are on the run, hiding from the agents of two powerful feuding megacorporations searching for the person who has this power and can turn the tide of the war between them. Lemon gets separated from Ezekiel and winds up with a group of humans who may just be her type of people. But the megacorps’ agents are still hunting for her, along with the ruthless members of a religious cult whose goal is to kill all mutants or deviates, like Lemon. Ezekiel is trying to beat Eve’s group to find Ana, in the company of a companion who will be a surprise (possibly welcome; but maybe not) to readers of LIFEL1K3. Ezekiel is hoping that Eve still has a conscience about killing people, but is that hope a vain one?
DEV1AT3 amps up the suspense from LIFEL1K3, and benefits from a more coherent plot. The characters are both colorful and memorable, and the stakes are high: humanity itself is at risk. There are a couple of robot deathmatches to liven up the plot along the way, starring Cricket, Eve’s formerly small robot companion whose brain has been put into a 77-ton WarBot. It’s a previously longed-for but uncomfortable change for Cricket, as he finds himself at the mercy of others’ agendas. Another entertaining character is Solomon, a humorously cynical robot who’s figured out a way to finesse the Three Laws and gain for himself some more personal freedom.
The theme of love and loyalty for friends and found family is strong here, particularly in Lemon. Her loyalty to friends (even the robotic ones) is laudable, even though it leads her to make some highly questionable decisions. Another character whose actions I sometimes found difficult to believe was Eve. Her character transplant lends itself well to the plot of DEV1AT3, and is perhaps even necessary to drive the plot, but didn’t entirely ring true to me.
Anti-religious views seem to bubble under the surface of DEV1AT3. Traditionally religious characters are inevitably fanatical or twisted or both, and when a new friend shares a copy of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species with Lemon, she reacts with a spiritual fervor to its message, tears in her eyes and all. It’s the Good Book for deviates!
Other than these quibbles, I enjoyed DEV1AT3 a lot. There are some great plot twists that truly caught me by surprise, and it kept me engaged from beginning to end. I’d recommend this LIFELIKE trilogy to readers who enjoy dystopian YA science fiction. I’m definitely planning to read the next and final book in this series.