After reading Klara and the Sun I didn’t know what to think. Klara brought a warm, fuzzy feeling to my heart but I felt empty closing the end cover. It’s one of those books that you need to sit on for a while — let your feeling accumulate.
Ishiguro’s latest novel follows the narrative of an AF (artificial friend) Klara who is chosen by Josie. The novel begins with Klara waiting to be picked by a child. During this time we learn Klara is special — she notices and observes things other AF’s do not care about. That’s what made her so perfect for Josie. Josie needed that care and attention, that’s why her mother was giving her those funny looks in the store.
The book could be regarded as science fiction with a dabble of the dystopic. But the genre and setting are uncertain. It seems to be set in American in a somewhat near future — but it’s all a bit of a blur.
This may be because we see things through Klara’s eyes. Everything seems to be viewed through a grid and analysed within each square. Klara gets easily overwhelmed by new and cluttered environments. Our view of the world is limited and we can only know what an AF is capable of being programmed to know. I don’t doubt that Klara has the capability of learning more, however. Ishiguro seemed to carefully create this ambiguous yet ordinary setting.
Klara could easily be mistaken for a human. And I found myself at times wondering if she was. If she was not a robot but maybe a slave — ignorant of the freedom she could possess. Just like human beings, Klara has a deity ‘the Sun’ and an average life expectancy. And I wonder if maybe she had a little crush!
The moral dilemma in the story revolves around the question of whether you can replace a human being with a robot. Ishiguro asks “Do you believe in the human heart? I don’t mean simply the organ, obviously. I’m speaking in the poetic sense. The human heart. Do you think there is such a thing? Something that makes each of us special and individual”. If you don’t believe in the human heart then love does not matter. So a robot could impersonate a human being.
And I don’t think I would mind Klara being in my life. She is passionate, detail-orientated and caring — she’d have the perfect CV! Despite some minor miscommunication due to her lack of filter, Klara never hurts anyone. She’s less problematic than a human being!
Ishiguro’s new novel uses an easily recognisable society to show what a little attention and care can do. If we stripped things back down to basics like Klara comprehends maybe we too could understand deep issues like global warming, class differences and the all too imminent death.