Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro [8/10]

In my mind, for my reading slate, “Klara and the Sun” seemed a natural progression from Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me, which I read a couple of years ago and labeled a triumph. Both are near-term sci-fi-world examinations of artificial intelligence tackled by literary fiction giants, rather than the science fiction authors we generally turn to for futurism. McEwan’s novel in particular seemed to attract the ire of sci-fi fans, but I have never believed that non-genre novelists cannot tackle the future. Well, Klara and the Sun adopts a similar narrative conceit to Machines Like Me, in that Klara is an Artificial Friend, a synthetic humanoid designed to be used by humans in the home, in the same way that robot Adam was purchased in McEwan’s book. But whilst McEwan considered Adam from the point of view of his human hero, this time we see the world from Klara’s intelligent but askew perspective. Bought by a teenage girl who seems to be constantly ill, Klara gradually unpeels her new world, and, no surprise to any Ishiguro fan, it is a warped, quietly dystopian world. Ishiguro’s deceptive prose style is simple to the point of parody but its strength is a consistency of internal perception, one that sucks the reader in, even as the author deftly reveals what is going on. I found the final third of Klara and the Sun to be emotionally devastating and when I turned the final page, I was struck by the realization that the novel is just as much about love and loneliness as it is about robotics. After The Buried Giant, Ishiguro’s only clunker, I can heartily recommend Klara and the Sun.

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