False Hearts Hardcover – 16 Jun 2016
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Just fantastic. Rarely have I torn through a book so quickly. Dark, smart, fast-paced & sexy (Samantha Shannon, author of The Bone Season)
False Hearts is that rarest of things - a fast-paced thriller with tons of heart and soul. Set in a chillingly believable future, it's bursting with original concepts and unforgettable characters. I defy anyone to put it down (Sarah Lotz)
I thoroughly enjoyed it, from its explosive beginning right through to a very satisfying end. This is very much a character-driven piece, and although the story is of twins, it is really Taema's tale. I can happily say False Hearts has been the highlight of my year's reading so far (James Oswald)
A strong debut from someone who's clearly got what it takes (Peter F. Hamilton)
False Hearts has an ingenious premise, and Laura Lam executes it flawlessly. Gritty and wise, your own pulse will be racing as you get caught up in this exciting tale (Robert J. Sawyer)
An intriguing and fast-paced tale (Heat)
A chilling read that will have you gripped from page one . . . A must read (Woman's Own)
Its vision of the future is seductively terrifying (SFX)
This encompassing, fast-paced murder mystery in a cyberpunk, late 21st-century San Francisco . . . expertly explores themes of identity, totalitarian governments, cults, mind control, and familial love (Publishers Weekly)
A rich and entertaining sci-fi tale that is brimming with ideas (SciFiNow)
This is an adrenaline-fuelled page turner, packed full of twists and turns with a compelling heroine at its heart . . .See all Product description
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So it was all the more surprising when every single member of our merry band of readers enjoyed it, and we’re an eclectic group with a broad age range - from 15 year olds and sixth formers to mid forties plus.
For some of us it was Laura Lam’s world building, the description of a San Francisco with flesh parlours, replicators, Verichips and dreamscapes that drew us in while for others it was the idea of the cult, Mana’s Hearth, shunning technology and being over seen by the omnipresent Mana-ma. That the conjoined twins, Tila and Taema, grew up in the one environment but lived in the other after their shared heart failed gave the contrast between the modern and the traditional, stitching the two together through their dual narrative.
The dual narrative allowed us alternating perspectives, from the twin’s upbringing in the Hearth as narrated by Tila from her prison cell, and the present as narrated by Taema as she investigates the murder Tila is accused of. As a group we were split on which narrative we preferred. On the one hand the conforming Taema, more vulnerable, unravelling her sister’s recent movements, exploring her own strength, discovering her own abilities, questioning her relationships; on the other hand there was Tila, a stronger voice, edgier, more dominant.
The concept of escapism through the drugs Zeal and Verve (at the heart of this thriller) was an interesting one; the exploration of the drug, the different types of addiction and the idea it was so commonplace and an accepted activity, the equivalent of going to the gym.
The story, and the world as built by Laura Lam, was credible and well structured. The plot pacey, keeping the pages turning. All in all a good read.
One night, Tila stumbles into her twin sister's home covered in blood. She is quickly arrested for murder, the first one committed by a civilian in San Francisco for decades. The police suspect that a new psychoactive drug, Verve, is involved, and offer her twin sister Taema a deal. If she manages to help them bring down a huge crime syndicate, then they might let Tila away with the crime. But Taema's investigation quickly raises demons from the twins' past. Born and raised in a religious cult that banned modern medicine, they needed surgery to separate them as they were born conjoined. What is the link between the cult and the crime syndicate?
Firstly, I have to talk about the setting. It really pulled me in; the world Lam built was just so interesting. The way people could alter their bodies anyway they wanted, the way the government was able to keep order over everyone through observation, it was all amazing. It was creepy in a way; I couldn't imagine living in a world like that where everyone is constantly observed by the government. It must have been really difficult for Tila and Taema to settle into the world after growing up in a cult that had no technology. The cult itself was interesting, and it was actually far more sinister than I ever imagined it would be. The link between that and the crime syndicate, the Ratel, was incredible. It was obvious quite early on that they were linked, but I never thought that it would be in the way that it was. I couldn't believe it.
On to the characters. I loved Taema - she was so determined to free her sister that she would do anything to be successful, including using her body to her advantage. Nazarin was a great love interest, and the two found comfort in one another without the cliché instalove that we see in so many other books. I loved Tila's backstory into the background of the cult: how it was formed, how they were brainwashed all their lives, and how and why they chose to escape. The villains were also hugely interesting, such as Mana-ma and the leaders of the Ratel. I would've liked to have seen more of the Ratel leaders though; although it was clear that they were dangerous, it wasn't really shown until very late in the book.
Another thing I would say is that although this has been marketed as a YA novel, it really isn't. Parts of the book are really quite graphic, and there were numerous sex scenes, which too were quite graphic.
I loved Laura Lam's writing style so I will definitely be picking up her other books at some point. I also love the fact that although this is a series, future books won't be connected anymore than that they are set in the same universe. I would maybe like to see Tila and Taema pop up at some point as minor characters in future novels.
All in all, a brilliant book. 4.5/5.