From the coauthor of the New York Times bestselling Illuminae Files comes the first book in a new series that's part Romeo and Juliet, part Terminator, and all adrenaline.
On an island junkyard beneath a sky that glows with radiation, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap. Seventeen-year-old Eve isn't looking for trouble--she's too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she spent months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, she's on the local gangster's wanted list, and the only thing keeping her grandpa alive is the money she just lost to the bookies. Worst of all, she's discovered she can somehow destroy machines with the power of her mind, and a bunch of puritanical fanatics are building a coffin her size because of it. If she's ever had a worse day, Eve can't remember it. The problem is, Eve has had a worse day--one that lingers in her nightmares and the cybernetic implant where her memories used to be. Her discovery of a handsome android named Ezekiel--called a "Lifelike" because they resemble humans--will bring her world crashing down and make her question whether her entire life is a lie. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic sidekick Cricket in tow, Eve will trek across deserts of glass, battle unkillable bots, and infiltrate towering megacities to save the ones she loves...and learn the truth about the bloody secrets of her past.
Almost everybody called her Eve.
At first glance, you might’ve missed her. She wouldn’t have minded much. Hunched on the shoulder of a metal giant, she was just a silhouette amid the hiss and hum and halos of glittering sparks. She was tall, a little gangly, boots too big and cargos too tight. Sun-bleached blond hair was undercut into an impressive fauxhawk. Her sharp cheekbones were smudged with grease, illuminated by the cutting torch in her hands. She was seventeen years old, but she looked older still. Just like everything around her.
A black metal sphere sat in the socket where her right eye should’ve been. Six silicon chips were plugged behind her right ear, and a long oval of artificial flesh ran from her temple to the base of her skull. The implant obviously wasn’t made for her--the skin tone was a little too pale to match her complexion.
It was just about the right shape for a nasty exit wound.
“Testing, testing . . . y’all hear me out there?”
The girl almost everyone called Eve clamped a screwdriver between her teeth, glanced at the monitors across from her work pit. A high-def image showed the arena above her head, three hundred meters wide, littered with scorched barricades and the rusting hulks of previous competitors. The EmCee stood in the spotlight, wearing a sequined jacket and a matching bowler hat. There was no need for a mic. Her voice fed directly to the PA via implants in her teeth.
“Juves and juvettes!” she cried. “Scenekillers and wageslaves, welcome . . . to WarDome!”
The crowd roared. Thousands of them clinging like limpets to the Dome’s bars, humming, thrumming, feet all a-drumming. Most were the worse for stims or a bellyful of home brew, drunker still at the thought of the carnage to come. Their vibrations sank into Eve’s bones, and she couldn’t help but smile. Tasting her fear and swallowing it whole.
“Showtime,” she whispered.
“In the blue zone,” cried the EmCee, “the condemned! A fritzer, fresh from the border of the Glass, with the murder of seventy-two accredited citizens on its head. Brought here tonight for a taste of oldskool justice! All y’all give this fug a warm and fuzzy Dregs welcome. Some volume, if you please . . . for GL-417!”
Blue floodlights arced at the Dome’s north end, and the floor panels rolled away. A hulking lump of robotic menace rose into view amid a hail of spit and jeers. Eve’s insides turned slippery cold at the sight on her monitor. Her cutting torch wavered in her hands.
Hard to swallow your fear with no spit, isn’t it?
The robot in the blue zone loomed ten meters high. Bulky as a battleship, it looked like a high-speed collision between an earthmover and some armored knight from the history virtch. It was a heavy-combat model, Goliath-class, and the thought of a bot that lethal throwing down under the Dome lights sent punters lunging for their pockets and bookies scrambling for their tabs.
This was going to be a fight. . . .
“This is going to be a massacre,” said a tinny voice in Eve’s left ear.
Ignoring the warning, she finished her welding, her dark goggles held up to what she thought of as her good eye. Talking true, the glossy black optical implant that replaced her right peeper saw better than her real one--it had flare compensation, a telescopic zoom, low-light and thermal imaging. But it always gave her headaches. Whirred when she blinked. Itched when her nightmares woke her crying.
“How’s that, Cricket?” she shouted.
“Targeting only shows a 13.7 percent improvement.”
Cricket peered out at her from the pilot’s chair with his mismatched eyes. The little robot’s face couldn’t show expressions, but he wiggled the metal slivers that passed for his eyebrows to show his agitation. He was a homunculus of spare parts, forty centimeters tall, the color of rust. There was no symmetry to him at all. His optics were too big for his head, and his head was too big for his body. The heat sinks on his back and across his scalp looked like the spines of an animal from old history virtch. Porcupines, they used to call ’em.
“Well, it’s showtime, so it’ll have to do,” Eve replied. “That Goliath is big as a house, so it’s not like it’s gonna be tricky to hit.”
“This might sound stupid, but you could always back out of this, Evie.”
“Okay, now why would you think that’d sound stupid, Crick?”
“You know better than this.” Cricket scrambled down to the floor. “Shouldn’t even be throwing down in the Dome. Grandpa would blow a head gasket if he found out.”
“Who do you think taught me how to build bots in the first place?”
“You’re punching too far above your weight on this one. Acting a damn jackass.”
“Grandpa’s gonna wipe you if he hears you swear like that.”
Cricket placed one hand on his chest with mock solemnity. “I am as my maker intended.”
Eve laughed and scaled across to the cockpit. The fit was snug; her machina stood only six meters high, and there was barely enough room for her beside the viewscreens and control sleeves. Most of the machina competing in Dome bouts were salvaged infantry models, but Eve’s baby was Locust-class, built for lightning-quick assaults on fortified positions during the CorpState Wars. Humanoid in shape, what it lacked in bulk, it made up for in speed, and it was customized for bot wrecking--serrated claws on its left hand, a jet-boosted pickax on its right. Its armor was painted in a violent camo of black and luminous pink. Eve dropped into the pilot’s chair and shouted down to Cricket.
“Does my butt look big in this?”
“Do you want the truth?” the little bot replied.
“Do you want me to disable your voice box again?”
“Seriously, Evie, you shouldn’t go up there.”
“It’s an opening spot, Crick. We need the scratch. Badly.”
“Ever wonder why you got offered first swing against a bot that big?”
“Ever wonder why I keep calling you paranoid?”
Cricket placed his hand back on his chest. “I am as my maker--”
“Right, right.” Eve smiled lopsided, running through the start-up sequence. “Jump on the monitors, will you? I’ll need your eyes when we throw down.”
Eve was always amazed at how well the little robot sighed, given he didn’t have any lungs to exhale with.
“Never fear, Crick.” She slapped her machina’s hide. “No way a bot this beautiful is getting bricked by some fritzer. Not while I’m flying it.”
The voice piped up through the speaker in Eve’s ear. “Right. Have some faith, you little fug.”
“Aw, thanks, Lem.” Eve smiled.
“No problem. I can have all your stuff when you die, right?”
Two years ago, Eve’s family was murdered, and she only barely survived, requiring cybernetic implants to restore her sight and memory. Now, she supports her ailing grandfather by piloting robot gladiators in the ruins of a devastated California, until everything goes wrong: she manifests a forbidden power to destroy technology with her mind, she rescues a “lifelike” robot, Ezekiel, during a salvage expedition, and the local gangs want her dead. On the run with her best friend, Lemon; a robotic protector, Cricket; and Ezekiel, Eve finds herself searching for the secrets of her past in a deadly postapocalyptic world, encountering everything from bioengineered kraken to an unstoppable murderous preacher. In one twist after another, Eve discovers that everything she knew may be a lie and the truth rests in whatever happened when her family died. Kristoff (the Illuminae Files, with Amie Kaufman) delivers a solid, fast-paced adventure in which well-drawn, resourceful characters struggle against the dangers of a vividly described world. The plot falters a bit due to the overuse of shocking revelations, but the stylized language and futuristic slang give the narrative voice extra zing. Ages 12–up. Agent: Josh Adams, Adams Literary. (May)
04/01/2018School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Eve is a 17-year-old girl living in a postapocalyptic world after a failed robot uprising. She spends her days working on fighting robots in an organized "robot wars" competition. The teen is on the run from gangsters and loan sharks while trying to care for her ailing grandfather. The memories of her past are murky; all she knows is that the robot uprising changed her life forever. After a particularly brutal robot war battle, Eve and her best friend Lemon Fresh discover a handsome android named Ezekiel in a pile of rubble. Ezekiel is a special android called a "LIFEL1K3" because they look exactly like humans. Much to their surprise, the android comes to life and starts to interact with them, despite the fact that androids have been outlawed since their unsuccessful attempt at taking over humankind. Ezekiel holds the truth to what really happened with the robot uprising and may hold the key to Eve's lost memories. Kristoff has crafted a fast-paced adventure full of energy and verve that will leave readers breathless. Fans of such popular sci-fi movies like Blade Runner and Mad Max: Fury Road will devour this series opener and will wait on the edge of their seats for the next installment. VERDICT A first purchase where fantasy titles thrive and for fans of Kristoff's "Illuminae Files."—Christopher Lassen, BookOps: The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library
A scrappy survivor learns dangerous secrets in an artificial intelligence-heavy "post-apocalyptic hellscape."In a devastated post-nuclear war North America where corporations reign supreme, radiation occasionally causes mutations, but the main impact is rampant cancer. What's left of Kalifornya is an island called Dregs, where white teen Eve pilots a machina in the WarDome arena against bots that have malfunctioned and broken the First Law of Robotics (harming a human) in order to earn enough to cover her grandfather's medication. When a match goes wrong and Eve is about to be killed, she lifts her hand and screams, causing the rogue robot to destruct—to her shock and everyone else's. Unfortunately for Eve, Brotherhood fanatics exterminate "abnorms" and "deviates," so she has to go on the run. She and her redheaded best friend, Lemon (a tiny girl with a big personality), find Ezekiel, an olive-skinned, blue-eyed "lifelike" (the most advanced androids ever made, but ones that broke free of robotic laws and slaughtered their creators). Hunted by multiple parties after the WarDome incident, Eve uncovers revelations about herself, thanks to Ezekiel, while also struggling to keep her loved ones alive. Between the worldbuilding, nonstop action, endless twists, and futuristic jargon, characters sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Refreshingly, romance and female friendship are given equal weight. Inventive and unexpected. (Science fiction. 12-adult)