False Hearts – Laura Lam

About the Book

Orphan Black meets Inception: Two formerly conjoined sisters are ensnared in a murderous plot involving psychoactive drugs, shared dreaming, organized crime, and a sinister cult.

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.

384 (hardcover)
Published on June 14, 2016
Published by Tor
Author’s website
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False Hearts by Laura Lam was a book that I was really looking forward to reading, and it did not disappoint. This is a social scifi/near future mystery of sorts set in an incredibly gripping world, with a story told by two absolutely fascinating characters. It is obvious that Lam poured a lot of love and attention into this book.

False Hearts is the story about two women who were born conjoined, and spent sixteen years sharing the same heart. Despite the fact that the world they live in is advanced enough to take care of every medical issue you could imagine, Taema and Tila spent their childhood raised in Mana’s Hearth, a cult that shunned all modern technology and medicine.

The book starts with a scene that is absolutely emotionally poignant and gut wrenching, where the two sisters have just gone through surgery to separate them, and each are given false hearts. Somehow they find their way back to each other, and that really sets the tone for the story itself.

Ten years after that operation, both women are adults and have their own lives and livelihoods. In some ways they have grown apart, and in others they remain close. Taema is preparing a dinner for her sister, when Tila enters the apartment covered in blood and terrified, claiming she didn’t do what the police are going to convict her of. There is plenty of chaos, Tila is arrested and Taema is confused.

Anyway, things happen, and it is all very tense and incredibly hard to pull yourself out of. Taema is working undercover with the police, acting as her sister and Tila is in jail writing a journal of the history of her life up to that point. It’s an absolutely ingenious way to tell this complex story. Readers get to see the complex sibling bond from both sides. Sisterhood plays a huge role in this book but it’s not as straightforward as it seems on the surface. The two women are vastly different, and their paths diverged a long time ago. There is a lot of tension between them, underscored by their deep and abiding love and loyalty. At the end of the day, despite the fact that these two ladies have their own hearts, and are their own individuals, they often appear to be opposite sides of the same coin.

The mystery is incredibly compelling, and coming at it from two directions (past and present) really makes it that much more interesting. This book had a fantastically well-rounded approach to telling a story, and the fact that the characters telling this story are just about the most well fleshed out characters I’ve ever run across, adds a lot to story being told. It was hard for me to decide which I liked more, the the mystery, the story of their lives and evolutions, or the characters themselves as they grapple with who they are, their personal identities, and their relationship to each other.

This book is so incredibly atmospheric. It’s flooded full of tension, the kind of subtle tension that makes your hair stand on end and crawls under your skin before you even realize it is happening. It’s impossible to put down. But there’s also this deep and abiding love, and this incredible feeling of loss that is almost overwhelming. The story moves at a fast, addictive pace. The world building is phenomenal, subtle when its needed, and in-your-face when necessary.

False Hearts is an exploration of so many things, but the deep and emotional ties of kinship, and personal identity really blew me away. I was absolutely amazed by how this book managed to gut-punch me with overwhelming emotions and a captivating atmosphere. Perhaps what really impressed me the most, however, was how the story was told. It circles around on itself, and the way that two different, powerful women tell their stories in their own ways really just drives everything home. This is an exploration of personal identity, sibling relationships, and love.

This one really blew me away. False Hearts was stunning in every respect.


5/5 stars


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