Shattered Minds by Laura Lam. ★★★★
Shattered Minds is a near future, science fiction thriller set in the same world as Laura Lam’s False Hearts. However, it’s a completely separate story with its own plot and cast of characters. The two books can be read in any order.
Carina’s mind is unraveling. Once a talented neuroscientist, she’s now a drug addict who struggles to contain her cravings to kill with the immersive reality drug “Zeal.” Then when she’s under she sees something that’s not one of her own fantasies – it’s a message sent beyond the grave by a former colleague, Mark, warning her that Sudice Inc. and her old boss are killing innocent victims in their quest to shape an individual’s personality… and Carina herself was one of the test subjects and had her memory of it stolen. To aid her, Mark put her in touch with a group of hackers determined to bring down Sudice. He also locked dangerous information within Carina’s brain. Can she recover Mark’s messages and help bring down Sudice? And can she control her addiction and dangerous urges?
Forewarning, Shattered Minds is not for the faint of heart. It is pretty gruesome. I think I have a relatively high tolerance for gore in books, but Shattered Minds was pushing my boundaries. Laura Lam has elsewhere described Carina as a “female Dexter,” and it’s a fairly accurate summation. Carina is a burgeoning serial killer. She has impulses towards violence and death, possibly because of her abusive childhood and possibly because of how Sudice and her former mentor Roz interfered with her brain. After Roz “treated” her, Carina sunk into a sort of apathy, unable to feel empathy or much anything at all. She was supposed to be Roz’s vision of the perfect scientist, completely aloof. But then whatever Roz did to her started failing, and she became able to feel again. Along with her ability to feel emotions came the desire to kill, which Carina channels into Zeal fantasies where she slays “deserving victims,” criminals of some sort. It’s unclear if she’s actually killed enough to fit the technical definition of a serial killer… but she definitely has the brain of one. If spending time within the mind of a serial killer isn’t something you can stomach, than you should skip over Shattered Minds. However, Carina did make for an unique and fascinating anti-heroine.
Shattered Minds is largely told through three perspectives: Carina, Roz, and Dax, one of the hackers working to take down Sudice. Dax was probably the most straight forward heroic of the three. He’s a doctor specializing in body modification (this is one of those SF futures where they can change people’s entire faces easily) who got his start after being inspired by his own operation as part of his transition. His twin sister got caught in the midst of a Sudice hack gone wrong and is now in a coma – it’s unknown if her mind is still present. In addition to being the male lead, Dax is also Carina’s love interest. Which as you can imagine is a bit… complicated given Carina’s serial killer tendencies.
Shattered Minds had more of a cyberpunk feel to it than False Hearts, thanks largely to the presence of some heroic hackers, intent on taking down an evil corporation. It’s easily the darkest story yet from Laura Lam. That said, it’s one I’d recommend.
I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.