Another back-dated post. I read the book in February 2023, but didn’t post this till August.
My latest read was Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. I try to blend contemporary fiction that has received critical acclaim into my reading cadence every few months. This title by Nobel Prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro was very positively reviewed when it was published in 2021. It had been referenced in some articles discussing AI that I read recently so I decided to add it to the list.
Klara and the Sun takes place in a future world where advanced technology and artificial intelligence are integral to human life. The book explores themes of human emotions, relationships, and the impact of technology on society. The central character is Klara, an Artificial Friend (AF) designed to provide companionship to young people. The story is narrated from Klara’s perspective, and Ishiguro uses her experiences to slowly reveal the world he has created.
I hadn’t read Ishiguro before. His prose is elegant and understated. The story’s arc and pace were both pretty satisfying. He explores themes such as loneliness, the nature of consciousness, and the relationship between humans and machines that are thought-provoking. I did think he left some key themes and story elements too shallow. I am not sure if this was by design or if the story just needed more development.
Overall, Klara and the Sun is a well-crafted novel that has an engaging story and thoughtful themes. Like a lot of other contemporary fiction, Ishiguro lays out one-sided positions on social issues. He positions Klara as a “noble victim.” Much of this is what drew “critical” acclaim for the book, but I found the shallow development of these themes took away from the work being as strong as it could have been.
Klara and the Sun
Here is the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her. Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: what does it mean to love?
Released March 2, 2021