Harmonie by Project Itoh (2008)
Paperback, 323 pages
Rep: Japanese MC
CW: Sexual Assault, ableism, suicide, murder
In a perfect world, there is no escape
In the future, Utopia has finally been achieved thanks to medical nanotechnology and a powerful ethic of social welfare and mutual consideration. This perfect world isn’t that perfect though, and three young girls stand up to totalitarian kindness and super-medicine by attempting suicide via starvation. It doesn’t work, but one of the girls–Tuan Kirie–grows up to be a member of the World Health Organization. As a crisis threatens the harmony of the new world, Tuan rediscovers another member of her suicide pact, and together they must help save the planet…from itself.
I added this book to my TBR three years ago and it survived multiple TBR purges so it’s sad I ended up hating it.
I was apprehensive from the first page, when I saw the book wasn’t translated directly from Japanese to French, but from Japanese to English to French. I quickly realised that I would have to push through the atrocious writing ( and/or terrible double translation) to get to the story.
And what story? It took 100 pages before the plot even started and by then the narrator had given us so much information that nothing was shocking or even interesting. The major plot twist wasn’t even explained, you just have to believe it because the book says it’s true.
My real gripe with this book is that the world is wholly unconvincing; it relies on extreme technological advancements and worldwide order less than 50 years after a nuclear war. Call me a pessimist, but I don’t see that even happening. This utopia also ignores the existence of disabled people as well as any related discourse. In a world where life and physical health are of the utmost importance not including a discussion of disability and ableism is an unforgivable omission.
What brought this from book I dislike to book I rant about for years to come is the terribly dumb, unbelievable, internally inconstant ending. I’m about to get into spoilers because if you’ve read this far you probably don’t want to pick up this book.
About halfway through the book we learn that one of the three girls, Miach, was part of a small ethnic group that lived isolated from the rest of humanity for so long that they followed a different evolutionary path and did not develop a conscience. That is, until genocide decimated this population and as young Miach is tortured and raped she finds consciousness.
Do I need to go on?
As an adult she wants to go back to the innocent state of her childhood and she wants to bring the rest of the world with her to that perfect, blissful harmony. She accomplished her goal by hijacking the medical system inserted in every adult’s body (because the book makes it very clear that the device doesn’t work on children) and turning off their consciousness. And ooohh, look at that, we where actually reading a log of humanity’s lack conscious day and it’s been who knows how long that we have been living happy and at peace like this.
Except that it doesn’t make any sense.
You are telling me that every teenager let themselves be brought to that state? IDK, but this sounds familiar…
Anyone? This book would have been thousands of times better if it had been the set up for an early 2010s dystopian…