Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, Klara and the Sun walks a perfect line between a feeling of whimsy and probing deep into the question of what makes us human. You’ve got this book that’s told (almost, because Klara is an AI) from the perspective of a child yet the story deals with these intense and weighty themes. It’s really quite magnificently done.
Told from the perspective of Artificial Friend, Klara, the story unfolds through the lens of her childlike wonder. Klara’s (artificially intelligent) thought processes are limited by her programming and express themselves more in childlike concretes than mature adult deductions. She develops (among other quirks) a devotion-like relationship to the sun; after all, the sun is her nourishment (Klara is solar-powered). Her naïveté leads to unexpected adventures, and Klara has a way of inspiring support — even when success seems like a long shot. Klara (like the humans around her) continues to hope.
“Hope,’ he said. ‘Damn thing never leaves you alone.”Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun
What Klara lacks in mature logic, however, she makes up for in observational skills. And it’s her curious perceptiveness that sets her apart in the shop where AFs wait, mannequin-like, to be purchased by someone sufficiently loaded. Because in the near-future world Ishiguro has created, AFs are the ultimate status symbol. But it’s precisely Klara’s perceptiveness that draws the notice of Josie, a child whose health is failing.
“Sometimes,’ she said, ‘at special moments like that, people feel a pain alongside their happiness. I’m glad you watch everything so carefully, Klara.”Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun
Klara becomes Josie’s companion, but also the somewhat confidant of Josie’s mom. It’s complicated. Josie’s mom has already lost one child, and there’s a heaviness that clings to the household in light of Josie’s illness.
At the center of Klara and the Sun, (a book all about and rocking its themes) are the themes of loss and grief and what makes humanity unique in a world being slowly (yet relentlessly) remade in the image of artificial intelligence and genetic engineering. Could AI Klara ever graduate from Artificial Friend to consummate companion? Meaning, could she ever replace another human being like for like?
A compelling read and one that will have me coming back for more of Ishiguro’s books.
Book: Klara and the Sun
Published: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2021