False Hearts by Laura Lam
Release Date: 14 June 2016
Raised in the closed cult of Mana’s Hearth and denied access to modern technology, conjoined sisters Taema and Tila dream of a life beyond the walls of the compound. When the heart they share begins to fail, the twins escape to San Francisco, where they are surgically separated and given new artificial hearts. From then on they pursue lives beyond anything they could have previously imagined.
Ten years later, Tila returns one night to the twins’ home in the city, terrified and covered in blood, just before the police arrive and arrest her for murder–the first homicide by a civilian in decades. Tila is suspected of involvement with the Ratel, a powerful crime syndicate that deals in the flow of Zeal, a drug that allows violent minds to enact their darkest desires in a terrifying dreamscape. Taema is given a proposition: go undercover as her sister and perhaps save her twin’s life. But during her investigation Taema discovers disturbing links between the twins’ past and their present. Once unable to keep anything from each other, the sisters now discover the true cost of secrets.
I obtained a 130-page preview (the first third!) of this novel via NetGalley – full disclosure, I’ve also beta-read this book (as well as the second in the series and adore them both, as well as Laura herself, so this review is entirely from a friend perspective.)
I have loved Laura’s writing since I came across Pantomime (then released by Angry Robot, soon to be re-released by Tor with new covers next year), and have followed her work since then, including the novellas she brought out herself (very lovely fables) and her short stories in FableCroft’s Cranky Ladies of History, and Whates’s Solaris Rising 3.
This is however, her first foray into the thriller side of things – before, her work has been mostly fantasy whereas this is much more science fiction and crime. This still has Lam’s magical way of creating fantastic and unique characters who feel a bit fantasy – lovely and lovingly crafted with hidden depths you only get glimpses of and makes you need another book, or at least short stories on the side. I’m obsessed with the character Officer Oloyu with his golden tattoo, so fingers crossed we get more one day.
This novel is being pitched as ‘Orphan Black meets Inception’, which should be exciting for many. I’d say it’s slightly more Orphan Black than anything else, and has just as many thrilling and heart stopping moments. As this is character-driven you come to care far too much for the characters and they do not have an easy time of things. It’s a rough and cruel world in the future, the tech is amazing, and Lam manages to give us characters that we may not necessarily like at all times, or even identify with (well, that’s more in the second book that one), but you still desperately hope they just get a good life in the end or a break for a while.
The plot is fast and neat, the future is descriptive and both unnerving and exciting (I mean, it would be fine for people who aren’t getting in trouble, right? RIGHT?), and the writing in this is truly movie-tastic. You could see this on the screen so easily.
If you want to know more, Laura’s posted a few images over on Goodreads to give a feel for the book, or if you trust my word from how I rate other things, know that friend’s aside, I’d be obsessed with this book anyway. And, spoilers – book two is even more amazing.