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Klara and the Sun

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro X
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Mar 2021, 320 pages

    Mar 2022, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Elspeth Drayton
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There are currently 6 reader reviews for Klara and the Sun
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Power Reviewer
Cathryn Conroy

A Powerful, Profound, and Astonishing Book That I Anticipate Some Will Try to Have Banned
I wonder how long it will take for someone to try to get this powerful, profound, and astonishing book banned? Translation: It's a must-read.

This is one of those brilliant novels that can be read on two levels. First, the highly imaginative plot and intriguing characters will keep you reading past your bedtime. But scratch below that surface, and you'll find a literary masterpiece that is not only sophisticated and daring, but also what some could view as a dangerous dystopian allegory. This is a story that tests the limits of human love, the effects of artificial intelligence on society, and the abiding, potentially debilitating fear of our own mortality.

Written by Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro, the novel is told in the first-person by Klara, an AF (artificial friend), and set at some unknown point in the future when many are unemployed and fringe political groups exist on the outskirts of society. Klara is a technologically advanced robot that can think and even feel. When she is purchased for 13-year-old Josie, it becomes her job not only to do the everyday tasks Josie asks of her, but also to learn as much about Josie as she can so she can anticipate her every need and assuage Josie's loneliness. But Josie is gravely ill, and there is a very real concern she may die. While Klara conceives of a religious-like plan to try to save Josie's life, Josie's desperate mother Chrissie, concocts a bizarre plot that could have tragic and unintended consequences.

This book is so much more than its gripping, fantastical plot. Most of all, it is a profound and moving statement about humanity—our strengths and our weaknesses. What is it that makes us human? Makes us special? While this is an impassioned story of family and friendship, it is even more so a profound story about the pain of human loneliness and the lengths we will go to keep those we love close to us.
Tony C.

Dystopian Brilliance
“Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro qualifies as “speculative fiction,” a giant “what-if” to a society that has pushed the limits of Artificial Intelligence and showed its limitations as well. Which parts of the human experience would escape even the most advanced computerized being? Would the “emotions” of an “item” that children chose affect how we look at commerce and replacement in today’s society? How quickly do we “move on”?
Anyone who has read these reviews (thank you, my enablers) knows that I require a lot of story development to accept the universe. So here, I had to cheat with a few Google searches to understand some of the intricacies. Luckily, others had the same questions. Having Klara as the narrator takes you along for the journey because you know the world as soon as the Artificial Friend does and even sympathizes when human behavior confuses her.
Like someone who tries to find humor by telling purposefully bad jokes, you do not necessarily know when a situation is complex or ordinary since Klara’s processing may muddy the waters. Nevertheless, I credit the author for making the Artificial Friend a sympathetic character. For example, one character compares Klara to a vacuum cleaner multiple times, and AFs show how people in this society draw the line in different places.
Somehow, I have not read many books with heavy symbolism in my adult life, so I feel I could pass a quiz on most of my reading. But this one has a little more to make you think about religion, possession, and loyalty. Like the conflict between two divorced parents, the ordinary on the pages comes off as new because Klara’s eyes had not experienced such drama before. But, in a world divided on the concept of Artificial Friends, we accept the ground rules.
Once the stuff hits the fan, the book’s questions focus: what truly separates a human from technology’s best replica? When is utilizing technology to interrupt the will of nature problematic? Would people engage in “acceptable” stereotyping if genetic engineering occurs and refuse to believe that only one type of person meets their requirements? The characters here have extreme opinions about the topic, as I imagine today’s Americans would.

In the Age of Enlightenment
In the near future when societies are further stratified by genetic engineering, parents are compelled to make decisions about medical invention to alter their children. With the delicacy of a skillfully wielded scalpel Ishiguru extracts a tale from myriad tangles of social malignancy. Despite evidence of a brilliant work performance made redundant (her husband) and failure to thrive (her older daughter), the Mother dares (a second time) to intervene on behalf of her younger daughter Josie, a child on the verge of coming of age, to insure her a lifetime of engineered success. Because the procedure results in a life-threatening illness, the Mother purchases an emotional support for Josie. Klara, Artificial Friend (AF), is calibrated for emotional intelligence far beyond what the current society can muster. As Klara recounts her life story embedded into Josie’s family, her actions demonstrate her objective- to apply her observations to better serve Josie. Her exquisite empathy, combined with her poise and single-minded support of Josie, wins the admiration of various members of the household. Her heartfelt devotion to her caregiving task is poignant and disturbing.
Gloria K

Klara and the Sun
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro is one of my favorite books and films. Based on his past work I was eager to read Ishiguro's Klara and the Sun. I admittedly am not a fan of sci-fi so reading parts of the book was a stretch for me.

As a child I had "imaginary friends". I still remember their names and the role they played in my childhood.

The book begins by introducing the reader to Klara, who is the narrator, protagonist and "Artificial Friend" to Josie. Thus begins the theme of the fear of loneliness which runs throughout the story.
As a child I recall my Grandmother making sacrifices for me as an expression of love. This theme will be encountered, but in a sci-fi mode begging the question, "What does it mean to love?"

Many children have fears as they are growing up. I was afraid of ghosts, clowns and the huge and frightening imaginary rabbit who lived under my bed. In this sci-fi tale fears are related to terror, evil, death and destruction. I will leave the reader to discover how and why these fears prevailed.

Another theme the reader will discover is the importance and mysteriousness of the Sun. I pondered if this was a throwback to ancient cultures or a sci-fi approach to religion.
In summary, this book was mildly interesting to me. For readers who like to be immersed in the world of sci-fi it may be viewed as good or excellent read. Only you, the reader will be able to determine the appeal the book holds for you.
Power Reviewer
Becky H

Oh MY! I still am not quite sure what exactly was going on in this interesting Sci-fi (I think) novel that is ultimately unsatisfying. Yes, we know what happens to Klara, but we are still unsure exactly what happens with or to anyone else. Is josie happy? Is Rick happy? Is Mother happy? What happened to Melania Housekeeper? What happened to Rosa? What is “lifting? Why was Josie sick? Why was the Father “substituted” and what does that mean? So many questions. So few answers.
This was just a very weird book. It kept my interest but now that I have finished the book I just don’t care about any of the characters (because they weren’t real!).
3 0f 5 stars for a frustrating read
Power Reviewer

Ishiguro can do better
I never thought I’d say this, but KLARA AND THE SUN is too mysterious. By the end of the book, I’m still not sure I solved all the mysteries. Kazuo Ishiguro alludes; he doesn’t give answers.

Klara, the narrator, is a robot. Ishiguro is pretty clear about that from the beginning, but he still leaves a lot of unknowns about her. What does she look like? Someone about halfway through the book calls her cute, whatever that means. Is she intelligent? Again, he doesn’t say so outright, but throughout the book Ishiguro speaks of her keen observational abilities. I suppose that means she is. But if she looks and acts like a human being, which it sounds like she does, how could her owner store her in a utility room or leave her in a junkyard?

Klara’s owner, 14-year-old Josie, is tired and weak almost all of the time. She is sick to the point of death. Ishiguro never says why. But he does allude to the answer, of course, once the reader gets well into the book. It seems that children who are “lifted” often get sick like this. But he never says what "lifted" is. For my own satisfaction, I assume it means that they were made smarter.

Klara’s job, as Josie‘s companion, is to watch over her. So Klara innocently observes and accepts everything almost always without question while the reader questions everything and tries to figure it out. I found it frustrating.

The title, KLARA AND THE SUN, lets you know that the sun is important to Klara. Its rays rejuvenate her. I imagine that Klara’s sitting in the sun‘s rays is like my plugging my iPhone to its charger.

Because Klara realizes her life depends on the sun, she worships it. She also talks to it, probably the way people talk to God. She is sure the sun can work miracles, and in the end maybe it does. Ishiguro never makes this clear.

KLARA AND THE SUN bored me. It’s not as bad as Ishiguro’s last book, but I still know he can do better. Let’s hope he writes a more adult book next time.
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