Review: Shattered Minds (Pacifica) – Laura Lam

shattered mindsShe 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.

Rating: 4.5/5

Fantastically entertaining, fast-paced science fiction that I didn’t want to put down. Lam has created a novel with the perfect balance of worldbuilding, action and character insights. And for most of us, reading about renegade hacker groups fighting against the system is like catnip.

Pacifica pretends it’s a haven – no crime, no murders. Peel back a thin layer, and look at what’s exposed.

We’re introduced to Carina Kearney, ex-neurosurgeon and current addict, who acts out her murderous fantasies in drug-induced dreams to avoid actually perpetrating them in real life. As a young girl, she underwent brain modification by a company working on all kinds of neuro-based experiments – which left her permanently altered, unable to feel appropriate human emotions. Later, she went on to work for the same company, Sudice Inc, but left her job in murky circumstances.

As her life falls apart, Carina is sent batches of information from her ex-colleague, which will enable her to expose the company that has ruined her, and the lives of so many others. Only problem is, she can’t access it without the help of a group called the Trust, working to try bring Sudice Inc down. Initially distrustful of each other – as they well should be – Carina and the other members, Charlie, Raf and Dax, soon establish something of a camaraderie.

“Either this will work or we will all die spectacularly,” Raf says, remarkably cheerful.

While the novel does move back and forth in time, between the current mission and events leading up to it, as well as switching perspectives, it doesn’t slow the pace down – which is often something which can happen with this technique.

I also have to just point out this little character description, which had me tickled pink:

Clavell was scouted on a visit with his family to Los Angeles. He starred in his first film, Actually, Love, where he played a misogynist internet troll who falls in love with a feminist online. 

During the course of their mission, as it were – setting up the downfall of Sudice Inc while Carina tries to retrieve the packages of information attached to five of her significant memories – things don’t always run smoothly. The team are constantly watching their backs and covering their footsteps, making agonising decisions about leaving the injured behind and killing their opponents in the name of the bigger picture – the moral grey is everywhere.

“We can’t do it all,” Charlie says. “It’s not up to us to fix everything that’s wrong with Pacifica and the rest of the world. We do what we can, and hope everyone else steps up.”

Shattered Minds gifts us with a strong cast of diverse characters, a pleasing plot about bringing down a corporate behemoth, and some important underlying messages about how far you’re prepared to turn a blind eye.

Carina feels alive. Her fingers tingle. It’s not the same as hunting  a person, but it’s still thrilling. She’s killing a company. An idea. She’s going to watch it all bleed out. 

***

ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof and may differ from final publication. 

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