2.5 out of 5 stars
This series started strong, fell apart at the end.
I really like everything I’ve read by Jay Kristoff. His work with Amie Kaufmann is great, and the LIFEL1K3 series had an incredible start (LIFEL1K3 and DEV1AT3, both 4 stars). Sadly when it came time for Evie, Lemon Fresh, Cricket and the gang’s big, bad finale, it was a little underpowered.
TRUEL1F3 combines the focus of Books 1 (Evie) and 2 (Lemon and Co.) for the ultimate get-the-band-back-together post-apolcalyptic, humanity-saving, Mad Max, rock n’ roll battle romp. In the main plot, androids are close to cracking the final safeguard left by their human creator and taking over the world. In the process, they’re killing everything they can. Opposite them, a deviant-hating religious right cult battles to eliminate any powers from the human population. Above both, two giant tech companies seek to weaponize anything and kill everything else, battling Skynet-style for domination over the what’s left of the scorched Earth and her population.
Sound like a lot? Because in TRUEL1F3, it finally is. In Books 1 & 2, the quirky personalities of each character shone gloriously through the overall firefight, and drove the story on a personal level. They were a Firefly-esque crew (very high praise from me) of good and bad, right and wrong, marvelously drawn. But now that we’re to the big end, TRUEL1F3 loses that magic somewhere in all the endless the annihilation. This book is one long battle, and a battle isn’t enough to make a whole book. TRUEL1F3 would have been better boiled dawn to half its length and added to the end of Book 2.
It didn’t help that my all-time most hated frustration happened here: key phrases repeated. Kristoff uses the terms “cigarette sky” and “Fugazi blue” at least four times. They’re nonsense descriptors, but you can imagine their meaning… once. Reuse of such ear-catching phrases is clumsy and beneath Kristoff’s typical bar. It’s a metaphor for this book.
At the end, my biggest issue with TRUEL1F3 was that it was the end. And so it had to end every storyline: androids vs. humans vs. religious cult vs. bad corp #1 vs. bad corp #2. Each got their own detailed, explosive, drawn-out armageddon. Soon I was very tired and quite lost: who was annihilating who, for how long, and which new war would begin all over again on the next page. It was haphazardly repetitive, like playing volleyball with enemies: side out, rotate. It made for an indeterminable climax – honestly, I can’t even remember what happened to everyone. Which is a shame, because the last book in the LIFEL1K3 series began with some of my favorite characters in recent memory.