Until recently, I didn’t think that humans could choose loneliness. That there were sometimes forces more powerful than the wish to avoid loneliness.
Do androids dream of love?
Of all the book genres out there at my disposal, I’ll admit that sci-fi is vying for last spot on my list of favourites, with romance as its main competitor.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a time and place for all genres and I’ll never avoid a book purely because it falls under a category that typically makes me shudder (although you’ll never see me pick up a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. I have to draw the line somewhere).
Having said that, this latest book by Kazuo Ishigur is a very soft entrance into science fiction, which is why I gave it a go.
Klara and the Sun leans towards literary fiction more than its sci-fi counterpart, so don’t expect detailed technical ‘sciency’ stuff.
Dealing with themes of both humanity’s and artificial intelligence’s limitations when it comes to emotions and love, the book poses some big questions about the future which really doesn’t feel too far off at all.
Klara, an artificial friend (AF) who gets her nourishment from the sun, has been waiting patiently in the store for the customer that will one day purchase her. Klara is special; while she’s a slightly older model of AF, her gifts for perception and observation are singular.
At last, she meets her new owner, a lovely but sickly girl Josie, and these gifts have never been more important. Life in a real house, co-existing with Josie’s family who share a painful past and uncertain future, is nothing like Klara would have imagined.
Klara’s observations about her new world take her on an unsure path, while she discovers the complexities surrounding matters of the heart.
The little sun peeking through the corner of the square frame (which represents one of the ‘boxes’ that Klara sees her vision as, is a delightful introduction to one of the key elements of the story — sunshine.
I love the stylistic approach to both the Australian and international covers; the tomato red is a fabulous cover that stands out amongst the array of new releases. The primary colours are pleasant and the design has a childlike whimsy that reminds me of Klara.
Speaking of childlike whimsy — the story is written from the perspective of Klara. This lends itself a very simple vernacular.
This gives way to a lovely irony.
The flat language that would otherwise be a struggle to make peace with is a contrast to the darkness that seems to creep in slowly from the edges of the story.
Klara doesn’t always understand what’s going on around her, even though she has the ability to grow in her perception of her world. I enjoyed this. As readers, we know what’s coming — there’s a sense of foreboding in the air which Klara isn’t privy to.
I felt like the final chapter was a bit rushed, and wanted to understand more about each character arc at the conclusion. And while it’s not how I feel I would have wrapped the story up myself, it was a somewhat satisfactory finish.
The heart you speak of,’ I said. ‘It might indeed be the hardest part of Josie to learn. It might be like a house with many rooms. Even so, a devoted AF, given time, could walk through each of those rooms, studying them carefully in turn, until they became like her own home.
Klara and the Sun pulls at the heartstrings. It’s a powerful, moving story.
Questions about what it means to have a heart — not the organ, but the idea of the human, emotional heart — and the meaning of love and loss are posed.
This story is a meditation on our impending future, which will be full of AI and sentient beings we can only imagine at this point. Expect a few ‘lost in translation’ moments along the way. Ishiguro doesn’t spell out the machinations of this future world; you’ll figure it out as you go along, just like Klara does.
I wonder how we’ll look back at stories like this and our idea of what technology will render possible. It certainly made me think about ethical quandaries that will crop up the more we create ‘friends’ for ourselves and interfere with our own mortality and make up.
Overall, I enjoyed dipping my toe into sci-fi because it never became a full plunge into a super-saturated android world.
Did you like the fact that you were only reading from Klara’s perspective? How did that form your feelings on the story?
Would you want to be a child of this world? Lifted or unlifted?
There’s a resounding theme about ‘fitting in’ for many of the characters. Who deals with this well?
Did aspects of Ishiguro’s future feel easy to imagine? Did any feel uncomfortable?
Do you think the sun is purely physical nourishment for Klara? Or do you feel it exists as a spiritual entity, and what might that say about her make up.
Did you have any moral quandaries reading this? Were there any scenarios that you were wary about?
But that’s the problem with the present, it’s never the thing you’re holding, only the thing you’re watching, later, from a distance so great the memory might as well be a spill of stars outside a window at twilight.
Fable and Fizz would like to acknowledge the Whadjuck Noongar people as the traditional owners and continual custodians on the lands and waters this content is primarily written on. I pay respects to their Elders — past and present. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.