This review of Lifecast by Marc Opsal was originally published on Reedsy Discovery. Check it out here!
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Once in a blue moon, a book comes along that completely exceeds your expectations. Such was the case with Lifecast.
I’m not usually big into dystopian, or at least I haven’t been for a while. But if I had to reduce this book to a comparison we’d all know, it’s a lot like the Hunger Games IF we were hanging out with the rich people in the Capitol the whole time.
Honestly, a pretty intriguing concept in and of itself. But don’t mistake it for derivative; there was a lot of thought and care put into this story and its world, and as a writer, I respected the hell out of it.
So let’s get into it! Hold onto your hats, because I have a lot to say about this book.
Lifecast by Marc Opsal: Summary
Welcome to LifeCast.
There is no government…
There is no law…
There is no choice…
There is only the Idol.
Extreme urban sprawl has resulted in one massive megalopolis simply called, “The City.” The City’s wealthiest families live in the Highland, above a freezing layer of indigo mist.
Noble Valet Bear was born in the lowland, but now lives and works in the Highland as the sole servant of House Telladyne. Bear’s best friend, Aleks, was born to House Yukita, but has resisted her Noble grooming since she was young.
Until now, Bear has kept Aleks at a distance for fear his love might put them both in danger. Little does he know that they are about to stumble upon deeply-hidden secrets of the Idol that will threaten both of their lives.
In the fight to save themselves, Bear and Aleks must join forces with dangerous allies, face off against a foe who wields unimaginable power, and make the impossible choice between desire and survival.
An exhilarating futuristic dystopian with captivating worldbuilding, great characters, and a well-structured plot.
Lifecast is a futuristic dystopian with such captivating and immersive worldbuilding I would often forget I was reading. Yeah, you heard that right.
This book did an incredible job painting a vivid, opulent, high-tech future world with well-placed details that made sense within its internal logic. Also, the naming schemes and futuristic slang weren’t obnoxious. (If you read a lot of dystopian and sci-fi, you’ll know this is a huge compliment.)
But what really made this book’s execution shine was the author’s writing style: Clear, crisp, and short of a few technical errors, astoundingly professional. It also had one of the most well-paced plots I’ve read in a long time. It moved quickly without disorienting you and incorporated relevant information without exposition-dumping. If this is the author’s debut, he had me fooled! Opsal is one to watch, and I mean that whole-heartedly.
As for characters, Bear’s dry wit and level-headed problem-solving were refreshing and believable. He was very to the point and observational, but honestly, I haven’t read a book written in a first-person male perspective in forever, so I forgot how different it could be. Good different. As in, a welcome change of pace.
Aleks was also a well-rounded, three-dimensional character and for that reason, I think I would’ve liked even more dialogue with her, though she is very central to the story’s plot. Her and Bear’s relationship is so sweet and sincere and you root for them from the beginning to the end. I also really appreciated that it starts with them getting together and then builds from there, versus them coming to terms with their feelings throughout the story. Do you have any idea how rare that is in YA???
If I had to have one critique, it was that the villain (or, more precisely, the person who represents the real villain: society) was kind of dropped into the middle and felt more like a nuisance than a real threat to the MCs until the end. I think I would’ve liked just a little more development for him and his family’s creepy business.
Overall, this book didn’t just build a cool futuristic world; it grounded it in real people and relationships, which is how you truly succeed in worldbuilding. The dialogue always felt natural and each character had their own distinct way of talking and interacting with the world. The conflict got intense and kept me on the edge of my seat, but never felt hopeless or meanspirited. The parallels between this society and ours were poignant without being too on the nose. There’s definitely a commentary there and it definitely makes you think, but it doesn’t sacrifice good storytelling to prove a point.
And, of course… it ended on a cliffhanger and now I have to know what happens next.
I recommend this to fans of The Hunger Games (yes, I know that’s reductive, but whatever), The Uglies series by Scott Westerfield, and anything by Kenneth Oppel (who has a similar writing style).
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