Release Date: June 20, 2017
Received From: NetGalley
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.
GENDER: cisgender, transgender
SEXUALITY: presumed heterosexual
TROPES: nonlinear timeline
TAGS: science fiction, adult, thriller, suspense, psychological thriller, queer characters, POC characters, Native characters, cyberpunk / technopunk
WARNINGS: addiction, drug usage, non-consensual medical procedures, ableism, child abuse, violence, explicit violence, mention of rape, suicidal ideation, PTSD, psychological abuse
“I’m willing to take the risk if you are.”
Shattered Minds is the second in a series of thrillers by Laura Lam, set in a cyberpunk, dystopian, though eerily familiar, America where nations are run by corrupt government and corporations. In this companion to False Hearts, former neuroscientist Carina must battle her personal demons while working with a private group, called the Trust, who is determined to take down Sudice, the leading corporation in Pacifica.
One of my favorite aspects of this series is the technology that the people of Pacifica live with–the replicators that can create nearly anything, the ability to change your appearance at whim if you have the money, flying vehicles, drug induced dreamscapes, and so much more. It’s incredible to see how Lam incorporates all these varied advances into society while still presenting us with a society that is familiar.
Carina is my vicious, vulnerable queen. She’s a woman who is both terrified of her emotions and craves them, someone who desperately wants to get close to people but also fears hurting them. A recovering addict, there’s multiple instances where she’s faced with her drug of choice and manages to power through her pain to help the Trust achieve their goals and protect the people of Pacifica. Despite her supposed weaknesses, Carina is a strong character who is fiercely protective, incredibly intelligent, and I think, really just wants to be loved.
Dax, the other main character and Carina’s love interest, was perhaps my favorite–so sturdy and soft all at once–and I loved the way Lam treated his gender. It was introduced as part of his narrative, when he’s thinking briefly about his past, and his transition is only ever mentioned in his point of view. It’s never sensationalized by the others, who never actually comment on it, and is just treated as a part of his identity in the same way as his Native ancestry is part of him. His tribe immediately supports him when he comes out and help him get the medicine he needs to begin transitioning when he hits puberty. Due to the technology of flesh parlors, where the people of Pacifica are able to go in order to change their appearance, Dax is able to achieve the body that fits his gender. Also, there is a brief flashback to his childhood, and he is neither deadnamed nor misgendered.
I also enjoyed how diverse the cast is. As stated previously, Dax is trans and Native, and his twin sister is Native as well, though she’s comatose until nearly the end of the novel. Raf is queer and Latino–I think perhaps Chilean since friends/family in Chile are mentioned but it’s never confirmed–and his boyfriend, Kivon, is Black and queer. There are also Dr. Kim Mata and Dr. Aliyah Zahedi, but their ethnicities are never specified as far as I can recall.
I would warn people not to go into this novel expecting a romance. While there is a little bit of one, it’s nowhere near the main aspect of this story. Shattered Minds is the story of a small but determined group of hackers and scientists who are working to destroy the corporation that would seek to control all of Pacifica, and it’s an incredibly masterful piece of work. I look forward to (hopefully) more from this series.
Laura Lam was born in the late eighties and raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams.
After studying literature and creative writing at university, she relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, a boy she met online when they were teenagers and he insulted her taste in books and she insulted his right back. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. She is now a dual citizen, but at times she misses the sunshine.
While working a variety of jobs from filing and photocopying endlessly at a law firm to library assistant to corporate librarian, she began writing in earnest. Her first book, Pantomime, the first book in the Micah Grey series, was released in 2013, which was a Scottish Book Trust Teen Book of the Month, won the Bisexual Book Award, was listed a Top Ten Title for the American Library Association List, and was nominated for several other awards. Robin Hobb says “Pantomime by Laura Lam took me into a detailed and exotic world, peopled by characters that I’d love to be friends with . . . and some I’d never want to cross paths with.” The sequel, Shadowplay, followed in 2014, as well as several the Vestigial Tales, self-published short stories and novellas set in the same world. The third book in the series, Masquerade, will follow in 2017.
Her book False Hearts is a near-future thriller released in June 2016 by Tor/Macmillan and in three other languages. Peter F. Hamilton calls False Hearts “a strong debut from someone who’s clearly got what it takes.” The companion novel, Shattered Minds, released June 2017.
Her short fiction and essays have also appeared in anthologies such as Nasty Women, Solaris Rising 3, Cranky Ladies of History, and more. She lectures part-time at Napier University in Edinburgh on the Creative Writing MA.
She is still hiding from sunshine in Scotland and writing more stories.