Laura Lam's False Hearts is out in paperback now, and to celebrate we've got a brand new introduction from the author herself, setting the scene for the incendiary action to come.
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Before False Hearts begins, Taema and Tila, conjoined at the chest and sharing a heart, were raised in the reclusive cult of Mana’s Hearth. Roughly one hundred years in the past, the redwoods where the Cult is set was known as Muir Woods, just across the bay from San Francisco. At first glance, everything in this cult seems quite good. There’s no technology past 1969, so there’s no distractions like the internet. Everyone lives in nature. Mana’s Hearth has been led by a series of Mana-mas since the ‘60s. The Hearth go to church, they sing hymns, they confess their sins, and they meditate in the meadow. Yet many of the people who were born in the Hearth know barely anything about the world outside, and if someone grows ill, they are denied medical care as they must bow to the will of the Creator.
Not everyone bows so easily. Taema and Tila decide to leave. Yet running isn’t that easy—the Mana-ma would not let them simply walk out of the commune, and it’s surrounded by an impassable, artificial swamp.
As you find out on page one, they do escape. San Francisco seems like a completely different world to Mana’s Hearth. There are towering skyscrapers, taller than any tree they’ve ever seen. Food is ordered from replicators and everything is recycled. People have implants in their ears and eyes—everything is hyperconnected. The medical care citizens need is advanced and free. The twins are separated and fitted with mechanical hearts. Everything around them is new and rather frightening. The book skips ten years, glossing over how difficult integrating into this new society is. They end up hiding their past, flinching away from the pitying stares they receive if they say they grew up in Mana’s Hearth.
Those ten years take their toll in other ways. The twins drift apart. Subtly, but irrevocably. They choose different careers, their personalities continue to change. They’re still close, but not as close as they once were, when they were never apart. When they couldn’t keep secrets, even if they tried.
The book begins with Tila stumbling home to Taema’s place in SF, wild-eyed and covered in someone else’s blood. Before Taema can ask more than a couple of questions, SFPD break into her flat and accuse Tila of murder and take her away. Taema must go to the station for questioning. Soon, the police tell her that they suspect Tila has decided to infiltrate the SF mob known as the Ratel. As the police want nothing more than to take them down, Taema represents a rare opportunity to enter the inner circles of the Ratel. If Taema becomes her sister and falls down the rabbit hole, she might just find out what her sister was up to and why. At first, Taema can’t believe her sister would kill anyone. Yet as her path takes her deeper into the Ratel, doubts start creeping in. And if Tila is capable of murder, what does that say about her sister?