Very Quick Review: SWEET HARMONY by Claire North (Orbit)

NorthC-SweetHarmonyAn unnerving, sharply observed and altogether too plausible novella

Harmony is tired. Tired of working so hard, tired of the way she looks, tired of being average. But all that changes when she decides to splash out and upgrade her nanos.

And why not? Everyone’s doing it now. With a simple in-app purchase, you can update the tech in your bloodstream to transform yourself — get enhanced brain power, the perfect body or a dazzling smile.

Suddenly, everything starts going right for Harmony. She’s finally becoming the person she always wanted to be. But when she ends up running too many upgrades on her body all at once, the effects will be more catastrophic than she could have imagined.

A sharply observed, albeit depressing vision of the future that is all too plausible. Another very good novella from North, one of the best and most interesting authors writing today.

It would be difficult to say that Sweet Harmony was a “fun read”. In fact, in many ways, it’s just depressing. However, it is very good and sharply observed. I won’t go into too much detail, because it’s short and part of the power of the novella is in the gradual build-up of details and the progression of Harmony’s experiences.

This future is one just as obsessed with their mobile phones and the plethora of apps available thereon. Not only that, advances in medical science has allowed people to indulge their obsession with “perfection”, chasing various ideals — mainly physical — with little to no effort. In fact, many things are now achievable with just a few swipes on your screen and a monthly subscription. The nanos that North introduces in this future were clearly created with the best of intentions (pre-emptive care, etc.), but capitalism has exerted its inevitable influence to turn them and their abilities into pure commodity. Not only that, but the widespread (mis)use of the nanos’ capabilities and possibilities has a larger impact on society as a whole: those who are “naturalists” are considered quirky or backward; those who have enhancements are lauded, promoted, and so forth. Harmony also experiences an intense, manipulative relationship in the shadow of easy upgrades and improvements.

It’s a chillingly plausible vision of a dystopian future. One in which the UK has fallen prey to profit-based medical care, but coupled with the ease of in-app purchases. The numbers may seem small by comparison to US medical debt, but for Brits this is a mostly alien concept.

It’s not a happy read, but it is a very good one. It’s quietly devastating, chilling, and far too plausible for comfort. If you enjoyed North’s novel 84k, then I think you will find this one a rewarding read as well.



Claire North’s Sweet Harmony is published by Orbit Books on September 22nd, in North America and in the UK.

Also on CR: Reviews of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustTouch, The Gameshouse Trilogy, and The Sudden Appearance of Hope

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher

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