False Hearts by Laura Lam (book review)

July 14, 2016 | By | Reply More

The ‘False Hearts’ of the title of Laura Lam’s book is a partial reference to the mechanical hearts that beats inside conjoined twins once they are surgically split in the near distant future. As it’s a first person or should I say first persons, as chapters switch between mid-twenties Taema and Tila Collins, a picture of the reality they live in slowly builds up. Although they now live in San Francisco, there is no United States. Rather the country has split to different accords and they are now part of Pacifica. Technology also seems to be implanted, imparting some knowledge by a retina implant and most people can be easily traced by another device implant.


Originally, they escaped from the cult commune called Mana’s Hearth where technology is banned and the medical aid they needed wouldn’t be given. Taema is now a scientist and Tila, although an artist, also works in a night club. Tila flees to her sister’s home covered in blood one night and a murder suspect, quickly followed by the police. Both are taken into custody although Taema is released to return the next day. With identical DNA, the police need to make sure that one twin isn’t covering for the other.

However, the real plan is for Taema to infiltrate the game that Tila was working for and find the real killer. To do this, she is sped-learnt various backgrounds, think something akin to ‘Joe 90’ without the glasses, and physical training with a little plastic surgery to match changes in her sister. Think of the film ‘Logan’s Run’ only a little more subtle and faster with the plastic surgery. Her handler and undercover detective, Nazarin, is already in the crime cartel Ratel, ready to protect her. Other than how the tech changes things a lot faster for such work, this is very much like a police procedural story so far. Lam fills you in with background information about the reality as you go so if you don’t get your answers early, then expect them later.

How much to say without giving away any spoilers. Saying that, there are two major clues to link everything together that I suspect those of you who are detective story orientated will pick up on early enough. There will still be some surprises after that though. Once you’re a third of the way through the book, you do get a grasp of what the reality is about. It’s a shame really we don’t see more of it or how it is so widely accepted. With all this speed-learning, you have to wonder why anyone can’t be whoever they want to be and we don’t see any limitation on that. I mean, why have a criminal cartel when there’s no need for one. Even the two hallucinogenic drugs are widely used, despite them being highly addictive.

For a first novel, Laura Lam has made a readable novel, using everything she has revealed to the reader in some way. Whether she will turn from Science Fiction to detective novels will be an interesting turning point in her career as Lam appears to be able to do both competently.

GF Willmetts

July 2016

(pub: TOR/Forge. 365 page hardback. Price: $24.99 (US), $34.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-8205-4)

check out websites: http://www.tor-forge.com/ and www.lauralam.co.uk

Category: Books, Scifi

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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