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Review: Harmony by Project Itoh

>>Saturday, September 11, 2010

Title: Harmony
Author: Project Itoh
Pages: 300
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: A
Challenge: Japanese Lit Challenge

In Harmony, a Japan SF Award winner, Itoh creates a dystopian (or is it a utopian?) future, approximately one hundred years from now. Most of the world is obsessed with health after the events of the Maelstrom in 2019. It was a nuclear war which left many dead and helpless. The radiation of the nuclear weapons created many new viruses which spread to a population that had no established immunity. Upon the creation of nanotechnology where the body can be monitored and cured of illness within the home, governments turned from capitalism to "medical welfare societies" where the number one concern is health and living. In this world we meet Tuan, a young woman, who finds herself in the middle of a large conspiracy all the while trying to figure out what it means to be alive.

I chose this book to be my first Japanese Lit Challenge experience because of the intriguing premise. I wanted something that people may not have heard of and also something unique.

One of the strongest aspects of Harmony is the intricate and well-thought out world Itoh has created. He seemingly devised a whole world where everyone is obsessed with health and cleanliness. Life itself is considered a national resource. He not only creates this different society, he also joins it with countless technologies that I found very clever and also very fitting for this world. Everyone is fitted with nanotechnology, a system called WatchMe, where everything that goes on in your body is outsourced. You are told what to eat (to be most healthy), what you should and shouldn't do to maintain optimal mental health. Others can see how well you do by looking at a public score. Being healthy becomes more than what you want; you are forced to perform well on these scores lest you attract public scorn.

The story is told from Tuan's point of view. We follow her through this world where she meets two friends, Miach and Cian. Out of their friendship brings questions about the turn humanity has taken and also the growing mystery involving massive suicides all over the world. Tuan is a strong female character; she is smart, determined and independent in her views. Through her we see flashbacks into her past where we learn about the character of Miach.

Overall I found this to be a strong science fiction novel. I found the translation very easy and smooth. The style is somewhat sparse but I found that it was quick paced and suited to the tension of a mystery. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good science fiction story that questions what privacy, life, living, and free will really means.


  1. This looks very intriguing. On my tbr list.

  2. this sounds very interesting-I am looking for some good Japanese SF and this sounds like a winner-thanks for sharing it



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