False Hearts by Laura Lam. Book review.
When Tilia arrives at her sister Taema’s house covered in blood, Taema’s quiet life is turned upside down. Tilia is arrested. Languishing in prison Tilia is due to be cryogenically frozen, something from which she might never be woken, so it is effectively a death sentence. This is why Taema must prove her sister’s innocence by effectively becoming Tilia and descending into the dangerous world of drug syndicates.
The title of the book False Hearts is because the girls were originally conjoined twins who shared a heart, but since they have been separated both of them now have artificial hearts. But despite their very different personalities, surgical separation and the need for both of them to have an artificial heart each to replace the one they shared, both girls remain psychologically very close.
Like all good thrillers, False Hearts starts off with something pretty dramatic and the tension doesn’t let up.
But the twin’s backstory forms a considerable and important part of the narrative, particularly when it comes to understanding what has shaped the girls’ world. In many ways the twin’s time with the cult makes for a more chilling read than the events in the girl’s present. Allowing the perspective to shift between Tilia and Taema is also a good way adding interesting layers to the narrative.
Taema’s upgrading to her sister’s identity is done well with an appropriate use of technology that is not without its own issues physically and psychologically. Although this transformation is only the start of Taema’s ordeal and it is when Taema begins the deception in earnest that her resolve to clear her sister’s name really becomes tested.
There is no doubt that Taema’s unique bond with the wayward Tilia is at the heart of the story. As Taema becomes more and more immersed in her sister’s illegal life, the tug-of-war between Taema and who she must be to survive her experience, as well as the love she has for a sister (whose world and moral code lies far outside Taema’s understanding), makes for an engaging read.
The storytelling concentrates on the crime and the solving of it, using the science fiction appropriately without allowing the world building to get in the way of a good story. So in many ways for anyone used to a murder mystery and crime thriller format, False Hearts might be a good place to dip your toe into some science fiction writing.