Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – Book review

For a story narrated by a robot, Klara and the Sun sure does pack an emotional punch! When I say robot, I mean AI or AF (Artificial Friend). Set in an unspecified time and country, presumably in the future, when humans live alongside AFs, Klara and the Sun is a dystopian tale that explores if robots can truly take the place of humans when it comes to complex matters such as emotions and love.

Opening sentence: When we were new, Rosa and I were mid-store, on the magazines table side, and could see through more than half of the window.

Klara and Josie

When we meet Klara, she is in a shop, waiting to be bought. She duly is, by Josie and her mother. Josie is a young girl who needs a companion – in the form of an AF. Klara is made to mimic humans, all AFs are unique and she is a particularly developed one when it comes to observing human nature.

‘Sometimes,’ she said, ‘at special moments like that, people feel a pain alongside their happiness. I’m glad you watch everything so carefully, Klara.’

Klara is continually learning about compassion and human nature while living with Josie and her mother. Through her interactions with them, and with Josie’s neighbour and best friend, Rick she makes astute observations about what it truly means to be human.

Until recently, I didn’t think that humans could chose loneliness. That there were sometimes forces more powerful than the wish to avoid loneliness.

Klara

I also enjoyed the hope theme that ran throughout, with Klara’s unwavering dedication to the sun (she’s solar powered) being the religion of this dystopian world.

Klara and the non-specifics

As mentioned, the time and place of this book isn’t specified and neither are the intricacies or events (including past events) that happened to lead to the present we are reading about. This means we’re just catapulted into this dystopian world, which would have been fine if it didn’t leave me with so many questions!

For example, Josie is ‘lifted’, Rick is not but what this actually means, aside from vague hints about academia (and random interaction meetings with other lifted students), is never said. Coupled with the fact that being ‘lifted’ is making Josie ill but we don’t know how or why is another thing I wanted a little more info on.

Also, Josie’s father has lost his job due to AIs taking the roles and now lives in a sort of gang-like society but again, not much is said on this. There is also a reference to AI s becoming too powerful towards the end, so there are a lot of other stories that intrigued me and I would have liked to have read a bit more about in here.

I would say that the second half didn’t have as much zest as the first – perhaps because the focus shifted a little from Klara’s view on the world to a slower-paced plot that didn’t quite take off.

So, while I enjoyed Klara and the Sun, for me it was a case of first half building up a great premise that sort of felt a little rushed and underdeveloped in the second half. The ending though, did tug at my heart strings and bring things round a little for me.

I engaged with Klara as a character and this is definitely an interesting read if you’re looking for an AI related theme.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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