Book Review: False Hearts by Laura Lam (audiobook)

False Hearts

Author: Laura Lam

Publication Date: 14 June 2016

Genre: Adult Fiction – Science Fiction

Length: 11 Hours 11 Minutes

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

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.

False Hearts was chosen as the April selection for the #deepdarkreads buddy read that is co-hosted by my two book besties @crofteereader (Laura) and @hooked.by.books (Indre) on bookstagram. I’ll be honest, I haven’t loved the last few that I’ve read recently (if you can remember, I despised Revenger by Alastair Reynolds), but I was excited for this one because it is narrated by January LaVoy who is my all-time favorite narrator. I figured even if I didn’t like the plot, at least I still got January LaVoy. Thankfully, this one was a win for me!

Conjoined, identical twin sisters Taema and Tila grew up in Mana’s Hearth, a compound and cult just outside of San Francisco that shunned the use of technology. Taema and Tila’s shared heart begins to fail. They know their only option is to escape Mana’s Hearth to San Francisco and undergo surgery that will separate them and give them new artificial hearts.

Fast forward ten years, and Taema and Tila lead very different lives now that endless technology is at their disposal. Taema is gearing up to accept a new promotion in her engineering field when Tila returns to their apartment covered in blood and making absolutely no sense. Taema knows Tila couldn’t possibly be capable of killing someone.

Once Tila is arrested and in custody, Taema learns that Tila was involved in the Ratel, which is a crime organization that exploits Zeal, a mind-altering drug that allows people to play out their darkest desires in a dream reality. Now Taema must go undercover as Tila to take down the Ratel as well as clear Tila’s name. But as Taema learns more about her sister, she begins to wonder if she ever knew Tila at all…

First things first, if you’re a fan of Inception, you will definitely love the concept of Zeal and the dreamscape. It is very much a Inception meets Westworld type of scenario but one that takes place in a highly technological setting like Total Recall. The author did a great job of showing how a drug inducing virtual reality could infiltrate so many different levels of society.

As far as the characters go, Taema was the most well defined and complex. I was a bit apprehensive of Taema at first because her naivete is definitely annoying at first. Taema’s character arc comes a long way though, and by the end, I was rooting for her! I do wish that we would’ve seen more of Taema’s background (the ten years between leaving Mana’s Hearth and her position as an engineer) because we really only experience Taema as Tila for most of the book. While I understand why we were left in the dark about Tila, I felt that it made Tila very one dimensional for most of the story.

I felt that the pacing of the plot was propulsive and consistent. I loved that the POVs switch between Taema and Tila as well as between the present and their past at Mana’s Hearth. There were definitely several twists and turns throughout the book. Some of the twists and turns you will see coming, but the final reveal was unexpected, which left me with an overall great impression of this story.

I will be honest, one of the stars for this rating is purely going to January LaVoy’s narration ability. January LaVoy has the ability to do an incredible range of voices, which really helps bring this story to life and allows you to really immerse yourself into story.

Overall, I think False Hearts is a thrilling sci-fi read, and the audio will definitely enhance your experience of this book!

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