It’s been such a long time since my last Kazuo Ishiguro read, which was the highly acclaimed Never Let Me Go. I wasn’t quite as attracted to the premises of his following books, but Klara and the Sun intrigued me right away. It didn’t disappoint, though I’m left with this feeling of trying to grasp something that is continuously slipping away from my fingers.
Klara is a solar powered robot, an AF, an Artificial Friend, who has very high observational qualities. In the beginning of the story, she is at the store with her robot friend Rosa. Along with other AFs, they eagerly await families to purchase them. One day, a girl with a limp named Josie comes to the window display where Klara is stationed. They have a small conversation, through which they fall in love with each other. Josie promises Klara that she will convince her mother to come back to the store and purchase Klara.
“It is for the customers to choose the AF, never the other way around.”
After sometime, Josie and her mother does come back into the store. After a strange inquisition by her mother, Klara is bought. The second half of the book has Klara acclimating to her new home. There she slowly discovers the dynamics and tensions of Josie’s family.
Point of View
In sci-fi, it’s always interesting when we get the story from a machine’s perspective. In this case, we get it from Klara. We know that she isn’t the most reliable narrator. The limitations of how she experiences the world is imposed on the reader. The result is that at times it can feel a bit disjointed, disconnected, and honestly a bit confusing. However, here lies is the brilliance of such a writing device! As a reader I’m getting both a “robotic experience” while also comparing it with what is actually probably happening. I honestly love books like this, where some of the meanings are not stated so extrovertly, but rather left open to the reader for their own interpretations.
Klara and the Sun explores themes such as what it means to be human – can advanced Artificial Intelligence replace humans? Perhaps the question is not can, but when. And when that happens, then what? How about love – can Artificial Intelligences love? How do they show it? In return, can humans love robots? To what extent?
Of course, those themes are not new in sci-fi, they’ve all been explored before (even Disney’s Toy Story, to an extent). In fact, because of the “age” of the main character, and the issues she mainly has to deal with, this feels like sci-fi for younger readers. With that said, I did still enjoy it very much, and Klara is a brave, unique protagonist that will stay with me for a while.