I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of excellent books lately (not that you’d know, because I have’t reviewed most of them yet!), and Shattered Minds by Laura Lam was no exception. Although I’ve been aware of Lam as a writer for years, this was actually the first book I’d read by her, but it certainly won’t be the last!
She can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons
Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.
Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.
To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever.
Set in the same world as Lam’s previous novel, False Hearts, but actually a standalone, Shattered Minds is kind of like a cross between futuristic technological thriller and, to steal a comparison from the back of the book, Dexter. Carina’s serial killer urges are not the work of a happy, healthy mind, and at the point where her colleague sends her the information needed to bring Sudice down, Carina is well down a path to her own destruction. Shattered Minds allows us to see Carina begin to recover from that, all while fighting to destroy the sinister company before they can change the world for the worse.
Shattered Minds had me gripped from the very first page, although I must admit I wasn’t entirely sure what sort of book I’d just gotten myself into. Carina is a well-drawn, complex character, and while seeing inside her mind was sometimes disturbing, it only served to connect me with the character more. Having said that, I think Dax, one of the team of hackers Carina turns to for help, was actually my favourite. For starters, I loved that he was trans, in a totally not relevant to the story way. (I’m also pretty sure he’s Native American, although I can’t find the right passage in the book to check.) But aside from that, he was just lovely. Desperately worried about his sister, he still finds time to patiently care for Carina, helping her beat her drug addiction and access the information planted in her brain. He’s quietly competent at what he does, and you can see his feelings for Carina growing, as you can see hers for him. When something happens that temporarily sidelines him, I found myself desperately worried for him and unable to put the book down (although to be honest, that was just a general problem too!). However, even though Carina and Dax are the main characters, Lam has succeeded in creating an entire cast that I cared about absolutely. And it’s beautifully diverse, without it feeling like the diversity was shoe-horned in.
Plot-wise, as I said above, I was gripped. It’s exciting and almost impossible to put down, which is a problem when I do most of my reading at bedtime. It switches point of view pretty regularly, between Carina, Dax, and Carina’s ex-boss, Roz, which allows us to see things happening that Carina and the Trust (the hackers) wouldn’t know about. This also serves to ramp up the tension at various points, as we see that Roz is about to throw another spanner in the works. The world building is fantastic too – I found that I could imagine Sudice’s labs and the streets of this futuristic San Fransisco in vivid detail thanks to Lam’s writing.
My one gripe with Shattered Minds is that it ended too soon. I want to know what happens next, to everyone! However, I’m also happy with the ending as it is – it feels right for the book and for the characters, and so, although I would like to see more of Carina, Dax and the Trust, I won’t be too disappointed if I don’t.
Shattered Minds is out on the 15th June, and you NEED to go and buy it. In fact, pre-order it (you get 2 short stories set in the same world if you send your proof of pre-order to Laura Lam!). Don’t worry if you have’t read False Hearts, because it doesn’t matter, you can enjoy Shattered Minds without it. This is such a good book, believe me when I say you don’t want to miss out.
Many thanks to Tor UK for sending me a proof copy in return for an honest review.