Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishigura

I picked up this book because of its themes. I enjoy speculative fiction that explores the ideas of identity and the human condition in general. I particular enjoy it when these themes are explored without giving straightforward answers. Life is complicated and such simple answers don’t generally exist. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro explores these ideas in a fascinating way as one would expect from a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. Unfortunately one aspect of the plot ruined for me what was an otherwise wonderful novel.

The book is the story of Kara, an Artificial Friend, a type of robot companion for children. She waits in a store to be purchased and fulfill her purpose. When she finally gets a home, she is companion to a girl who has been “lifted”, who is genetically modified to be smarter. This process is not always successful, and it is unclear if it will be for this girl. She has a boy as a neighbor who she is very close with. We learn about all this in bits and pieces through Klara who tells the story from her perspective. Klara seeks to help all those connected with the girl. And this is the part that spoiled the book for me.

While in the store, Klara gets the idea the Sun (always capitalized in the book) bestows “his special nourishment” on someone to heal them. At a some level this makes a certain kind of sense. After all, Klara is powered by solar energy. On the other hand, it is completely absurd. A robot built on logic and algorithms that thinks the Sun is some kind of god to be bargained with in exchange for healing? Very human but not very robot-like. It just kept pulling me out of the story and making me shake my head. I couldn’t buy into it. Ultimately, this aspect of the story spoiled for me what was an otherwise excellent book exploring what it means to be human and care for another.

My rating: 3/5

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