finished False Hearts a couple of hours ago but had to give myself some time to
marinade because, you know, incoherent
screaming doesn’t make a very good book review.
reviewed the preview of ‘False Hearts’ by Laura Lam ( @lauraroselam) a couple of days ago, basically
concluding that, dear lord, I wanted to read the rest of this book and fast. Thanks to Pan Macmillan and Netgalley I
was able to get a full copy to review and I’m sure the question you want to
know the answer to is 'was it as good as you thought it was going to be?’
put this in perspective, when I’m writing a review I tend to make two lists,
one of parts I liked, one of elements I didn’t like, but I really struggled to
find things to put in the second column. It felt disingenuous
to try and find something wrong with this book so, you know what, I accepted
that I just honestly loved it.
what’s the 'basic’ premise?
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
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
The world building is just so good. A corporate owned San
Francisco, devoid of crime, running on pure green energy, every citizen
augmented. Use of psychoactive technology means every violent or abhorrent
thought or fantasy is exorcised through dreams. You see the world through the
eyes of the twins who spent their childhood in a woodland cult, deprived of
access to the implants and technology that people view as standard. You view
this world with the same mild bewilderment that the sisters are feeling, as an
have Tila, the adventurer, the twin who always wants to forge ahead, and Taema,
the twin who you almost feel started life in Tila’s shadow. The events of the
book mean these roles have to swap, we see a Taema who, initially, seems
woefully out of her depth, a Tila with the situation ripped from her hands.
There’s this wonderful juxtaposition of forward fighting Tila forced to look
backwards and the more retiring Taema having to take the plunge into the future
for them both.
I fell in love with the tech in this world. I have an intercalated
degree in Neuroscience so the concept of Zeal, a psychoactive dream altering
agent, sucked me right in. Between the blurred identity of separated conjoined
twins and the personality muddling effects of Zeal, you get a feeling that this is
a book which focuses a lot on 'self’. Indeed, Taema, taking on Tila’s identity
often wonders whether people like her more as Tila than as herself.
point takes me onto the sinister cult of Mana’s Hearth. A cult raising people
to be part of a lucid dreaming hive mind whole, united in fear of outsiders and nervous devotion
to their leader Mana-ma. Mana-ma is a distant villain throughout the book,
constantly in the back of the twin’s minds, warping their identity, making them
doubt themselves and their independence.
Nazarin, the undercover cop (and love interest). Now, Nazarin could very easily
have slipped into a cliché but he never did. He’s not overly brooding or
weirdly protective of Taema, you feel he respects her and her ability to make
her own decisions. He is the quiet reassurance that Taema, raised to doubt
herself, has always needed. I could probably write an essay on Nazarin but I
really want you to experience him for yourself because the segments between
Taema and him are some of my favourite in the book.
I feel I need to say that it seems as if bisexuality is the base state in this
book and it’s great, it’s great not to read another book where characters get
morally offended at getting hit on by the same sex. This was A+.)
book never felt as if it was dragging, which is a miracle, because I don’t know
a book where there isn’t at least one section that I feel could be cut. It runs
to a very smooth, well paced end, that, without spoiling anything, I will say
was very satisfying ;)
a final flourish I want to talk about the feel of this book. You know those
beautiful aesthetic graphics that people make for books, I feel False Hearts
could inspire some completely gorgeous ones. The open starry skies and towering
Redwoods of Mana’s Hearth, the bay fog, glistening neon skyscrapers of San
Francisco, the swirling unpredictable Zealscapes…this is a beautiful beautiful
hope you all enjoy this every bit as much as I did.