Rei is a pop idol in near future Japan trying to push past middling success despite competition from Vocaloid-style digital singers. Haunted by both guilt and the insidious manipulations of a controlling talent manager, Rei is forced to question what parts of herself—and those around her—she will sacrifice on the path to top billing.
"A near-future but all too contemporary story of how young women are exploited and manipulated, this searing and ultimately hopeful story is an absorbing read."
— Martha Wells, NYT Bestselling author of the Murderbot Diaries
“Kusano brings the vibrant world of J-Pop into stunning clarity in their near-future debut novella…Rei makes for a fascinating protagonist held captive in a glittering world. The author holds readers in a similarly tight grip, immersing them in imagined future Japanese pop culture. Kusano shows real promise.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Kusano pulls no punches in this portrayal of a rotten entertainment industry, where an idol’s privacy is violated with technology until one has to wonder just how much of themselves they are willing to lose in order to achieve their artistic goals. Touching on themes of self-acceptance, friendship, and reclaiming your own artistic agency, Hybrid Heart will move you like only your favorite song can, by leaving you a sobbing mess.”
—Francesca Tacchi, author of Let the Mountains Be My Grave
“Never has the Faustian bargain been so corporeally rendered as in the glossy, ruthless Hybrid Heart. Kusano paints a high wire portrait of a talented singer making herself into a candy-colored ghost. By turns wryly incisive and emotionally devastating, Kusano creates an unflinching world where the demands of the idol machine are as simple as they are severe: give us everything, or you will be nothing.”
—Bendi Barrett, author of Empire of the Feast
“Lavish and claustrophobic, Hybrid Heart ruthlessly scrutinizes its pop idol protagonist’s world as she turns that same scrutiny on herself, her dwindling choices, her compressed life, and slowly reclaims her dreams from the nightmare they’ve become.”
—Kat Weaver, co-author of Uncommon Charm
“Iori Kusano’s Hybrid Heart is a story of fame and deep, abiding loneliness. It defies expectations and offers us exactly what we need. Kusano’s prose is gorgeous, precise, and controlled. Their great gift is to show us what lies beneath the lure of fame and the policing of female-assigned bodies, to reveal, with perfect tenderness and unflinching honesty, the scars, the blood, the imperfect, essential core. Hybrid Heart may break yours—or resuscitate it.”
—Izzy Wasserstein, author of All the Hometowns You Can’t Stay Away From
“Hybrid Heart is a gorgeously rendered story about power, control, and breaking yourself out of a cage made out of false dreams. Kusano slams the reader right into the messy heart of the idol industry and then surgically proceeds to rip the reader’s own heart open.”
—Isabel J. Kim, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author
“Shimmering, crystallised paranoia. Idolmaster meets Perfect Blue in this stunning tale of panic-infused pop. Kusano is one to watch out for.”
—Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Nebula, Hugo, Sturgeon & Locus-nominated author
Written by Iori Kusano
Cover by Natsujirushi 夏じるし.
8” x 5” novella