In a terrifyingly believable future, information technology controls everything – including personality.

A former neuroscientist with Sudice Inc., Carina struggles with not only her ongoing addiction to Zeal – the drug that allows people to live out their lives as virtual selves – but also her urge to kill people. Carina believes she is a serial killer in the making, having lived out her killing fantasies within virtuality, she is now bursting at the seams to bring her killing into the real world. Barely able to control herself, she spends most of her time online, separate from the real world.     

Until a vision of a dead girl is planted in her brain by a former colleague, desperate for Carina’s help in exposing the terrible things that Sudice has done and worst, the things they are planning on doing: to be able to go deep inside a person’s brain and alter  them. To assess the full information though, Carina needs to unlock secrets buried deep inside her own mind: discovering in the process, how much of her personality has already been altered. With the help of a group of hackers, Carina and her new friends have little time to stop Sudice.       

The truth of what has been done to Carina’s mind becomes evident early on in the novel, but the process of truly understanding it is one of the ongoing subplots in Shattered Minds—with a narrative that goes back and forth between past and present,  and divided between Carina’s viewpoint as well as that of the villain Roz and co-protagonist Dax.

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Carina’s mental breakdown and her violent urges are really interesting to read about as this novel examines how not only nature and nurture could play a part but also outside forces that directly affect the inside of someone’s brain. What has been done to Carina is horrifying and unethical, but also incredibly potent in exploring the relationship between memory, emotion, and actions.

The romantic side of the thriller, though, is what really got to me, and that aspect of the novel happens in two ways. First of all, the hackers and the activists who fight against corporations, big money, and the awful exploitation of people. I call this aspect of the novel “romantic” in the best possible way, as something that is inspirational and moving, especially in these times of trouble. The other way Shattered Minds is romantic is the budding relationship between Dax and Carina. Dax is the romantic interest and a huge player in the story – a trans man who is the heart of the novel, a good counterpoint to Carina’s cold narrative (her coldness develops into something else in the end), and a hero in his own right.  

This techno-thriller is fast-paced, thought-provoking ,and even – unexpectedly – romantic.  

In Booksmugglerish: 8 out of 10