Firstlife (Everlife, #1) by Gena Showalter

firstlifeTJ Burns — February 23, 2016

5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Within seconds, Firstlife pulled me in. Within minutes, I was engaged. I found the premise to be refreshingly unusual. Firstlife is a full-fledged action story, with just the right combination of character development, witty dialogue, and thought-provoking content.

The Characters

I was immediately intrigued by the three main characters, Archer (Bow), Killian, and Tenley. I loved Tenley’s quick come-backs. To Killian. To Dr. Vans. To everyone. She’s a quick-witted thinker.

Following Tenley’s thought process was an absolute treat.
“The dirty little secret I kept from her? I’ve always been Troi-curious.”
Ha! If I had been drinking milk I would have spit it out. This is clever, witty stuff… 😀

I found Tenley’s number fetish to be particularly interesting. I was hoping the number thing/numerology would play a more important role as the story developed – maybe it will in the next installment. (I like mysteries and I like code-breaking too… 😉 ).

I came to appreciate the dynamic between Tenley and Killian, and between Tenley and Archer. Even though Killian and Archer started off with an arch-nemesis approach to each other, I was hoping that would change for the positive as a result of their interaction with Tenley. My hopes were satisfied as I watched the fronts soften. Killian, especially, had the opportunity for growth in his second life that he hadn’t managed in his first. His hard shell melted away gradually as the story progressed.

I appreciated the philosophical questions and ethical dilemmas that were thrown at us – both in the form of Tenley’s thought process and in the statement of principles from each of the opposing sides, posted simply as statements at the beginning of each chapter.

The Realms

Throughout most of the book, I saw the realms as two sides of the same coin, the ying and the yang, the dark and light side of every human. I was hoping that Tenley would be the one to find harmony between the realms, the one to find the balance. And I was waiting in anticipation throughout most of the book to hear about the rebel group, HART, which operates outside of the two realms.

Both realms are clearly imperfect. And the fact that they are at war tells me that there is no good and no evil. And the fact that parents from both realms send their kids to Prynne to be tortured tells me that there is no good and evil group (if anything, they are both evil for torturing their kids).

This whole “realm” thing reminded me of religious affiliations: Most people choose a religion because their parents chose this religion, and they believe in stuff because their parents believed in stuff.

I am constantly criticizing/questioning people for simply following the edicts of their religious leaders and not questioning for themselves which doctrines are truly “good,” which are simply tradition but harmless, and which are simply tradition but destructive.

People, groups, societies go to war to defend a system of beliefs that they have not even thought through. If Archer’s description of the realms is true, then this system would penalize free thinkers and spiritual seekers, such as myself.

I definitely agree with Sloan, who says: “Eternal punishment simply for choosing not to sign with Myriad or Troika? Bullcorn!” Bullcorn indeed!

Conclusion

Well, first off I have to say I really enjoyed reading Firstlife. I loved mysterious build-up – I gathered clues as I went along, made predictions, second-guessed myself, changed my predictions, changed them back… It was a great exhilarating ride.

I have mixed feelings, however, about the whole Troika/Myriad dichotomy thing, though. At the beginning the two realms are presented (with slogans and such) as two viable options — and not choosing seems also to be a viable option.

But as the story progresses, and then climaxes, they certainly aren’t all viable options — Troika is by far the lesser of the three evils. Troika turns out to be all lovey-dovey and peaceful like. Troika is so peaceful that punishment (“Exchange”) only means to put oneself into someone else’s shoes.

Myriad, on the other hand, is willing to publicly execute its own members and stick them into kennels, not to mention their torturing and killing the unsigned — not a good option.

But both realms are willing to send their kids to be tortured — which contradicts Troika’s all lovey-dovey atmosphere. And the Troika talk about taking responsibility for one’s actions, which we hear toward the end of the story, stands in crass contradiction to the fact Troika operatives and members are willing to use torture and other pressure tactics to get young people (teenagers!) to sign. Not cool.

The two realms end up — as I feared they might — more like Troika v. Myriad, good versus evil. But this dichotomy may develop more to my liking in the next installment. Clearly Tenley feels she is choosing the lesser of the two evils — she knows that Troika needs reforming and she does not accept that unsigned kids should have to end up in Many Ends — especially peace activists, who are working for Realm Harmony.

Many Ends is horrific — and I cannot accept that the unsigned should land there. Spiritual Seekers, such as myself, who refuse to choose a religion, end up there. (Troika and Myriad are clearly religion-like — or even cult-like).

The kids from HART (Humans Against Realm Turmoil) are the true heroes of this story. They are willing to risk their everlife to do what is right/good — bring peace to the realms, end the war. They stick to their grounds, even though the consequence of doing so — ending up in Many Ends — is unthinkably horrific. But doing what is right/good is not always/usually easy and being a good person is not always rewarded in the first life — but it’s nice to hope that it will be rewarded in the “everlife.” (Oh sorry, end of sermon… 😉 ).

Well, I’m going to need some more time to mull this through…

Firstlife is clearly a book that makes me think — and that is definitely my kind of book, even if I don’t always agree with the characters’ conclusions.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Published February 23rd 2016 by Harlequin Teen

TJ’s Goodreads Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1501337144

 

You can find this book at:

Amazon: Firstlife (An Everlife Novel) by Gena Showalter

Barnes & Noble:

Teen and Young Adult Books at Amazon

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books at Amazon

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