False Hearts by Laura Lam
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"You don't know if it's fear or desire
The danger of a drug that takes you higher..."
-U2, "So Cruel"
"The dream is collapsing."
Funny that I should read this book today right after I started a new chapter of my own work, a chapter in which the villain is revealed to the reader (and the narrator) as a US Senator - and closet fundamentalist Mormon leader - who owns an entire town in Utah full of people loyal to him and his warped, bigoted mindset.
Laura Lam's latest book reinforced for me why I loathe cults. There is no quicker way to deprive an impressionable person of any agency they may have than to brainwash them. So I always have tons of respect for those, real and fictional, who manage to break away.
Like Taema and Tila, the formerly-conjoined twin protagonists of False Hearts.
This near-future dystopian mystery is accurately compared to both Orphan Black and Inception, two of the most amazing pieces of sci-fi in the history of humanity. From the former, we get one main character going undercover as her sister and delving into the shady goings-on she's wound up stuck in, as well as, of course, a sick, sick cult (Tila's narration mostly contains flashbacks to the twins' time in Mana's Hearth, which made me look forward to them more because I found her disillusionment and desire to escape so very compelling.) From the latter, we get psychoactive drugs that take people into dream worlds as a way to escape the confines of reality - with horrific side effects, naturally.
Lam also lends her own uniquely Continuum-esque take to the book by setting it not in the present day (like Orphan Black or Inception) but in the near future. It's at least fifty years ahead of where we are now, and features a broken-up US (the West Coast is now the nation of Pacifica), a San Francisco Bay full of even more artificial islands and algae farms than ever (something I've long foreseen as well - well, maybe not the algae farms, but the man-made islands for sure), and corporations holding too much power for their own good. Far from the alternate fantasy past of Lam's Pantomime, here she moves in the opposite direction to apply some stellar world-building.
Thank God the second book's already been announced - because, while not leaving the reader prone to violence, this book is easily as addictive as some of the drugs of this deadly, dangerous future.
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