Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Nobel and Booker Prize-winner Kazuo Ishiguro has brilliantly demonstrated yet again the sad and sick society we live in with his chilling new dystopian novel, ‘Klara and the Sun’. It is a cautionary tale, surely, the human race would never metamorphose into a society so terminally ill – would it?
Sometime in the near future we meet Klara. Klara is an AF, an Artificial Friend, a life-size human copy, a machine operating on solar power. She sits in a shop, expecting eventually to be sold to a family who would purchase her to be a companion for their child. She is a super-intelligent machine who is capable of expert and intellectual thought, the ideal companion for children whose parents can afford her. She’s not the latest model, being a B2; B3s are even more versatile and sophisticated, but she hopes to be sold to a family who will be kind and appreciative of her special gifts – for Klara is special: she has a treasured relationship with the sun, Giver of all Life, and it warms her heart to see it through the shop window travelling each day across the sky. She sees other things too, that confuse her about humans: where are they all going in such a hurry, and why? And why is there pollution everywhere?
One day a young, disabled girl stops in front of the shop window, and tells Klara that she’s The One, the one that Josie wants as her companion. There’s something very wrong with Josie – not in her essence, but physically; she is enormously intelligent, but her body is failing her and as Klara spends more time with the family it becomes horribly clear that genetic manipulation has occurred (now the norm in this society), but it hasn’t worked for Josie. She is dying. The effects on the family have been tragic: the parents are now divorced and blaming each other for everything; Josie’s best friend Rick hasn’t been genetically manipulated, he’s physically sound, but won’t have the same opportunities in life for that reason. Klara’s heart (if she was built with one) aches for them all and, because she believes utterly in the healing power of her God the Sun, she requests Him to let Josie get better, so that she can have a normal, happy life with her friend Rick.
But what is happiness? Klara only knows that Rick and Josie long for it, as do their families. There must be some way that she can help – because that is what she has been programmed to do: to help.
And the way Klara helps is the ultimate act of unselfishness, only to be repaid by the caprices of human nature. Kazuo Ishiguro has demonstrated yet again his enormous skill in portraying society in all its guises – and self-destructiveness. His beautiful Klara will stay with us all long after we have read the last page. SIX STARS.