Klara and the Sun: A novel
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Hardcover- $22.01

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  "This book will inspire deeper thinking on a variety of topics." by thewanderingjew (see profile) 04/10/21

Klara and the Sun: A Novel, Kazuo Ishiguro, author; Sura Siu, narrator
This is a novel about a dystopian world. It is a world in which technology has advanced to the point that children can be genetically engineered to succeed if they qualify for the program. This is a world in which very lifelike androids coexist in human families. Although it may even seem like a young adult novel, at first blush, the messages within are more profound when explored. This is a story about one android, Klara, and also Josie, the child that has chosen her to be her Artificial Friend, her AF. So, suspend disbelief, relax and enjoy the show.
Josie has been “lifted up”. She has had genetic altering which enrolled her in a program to guarantee her future success. However, her only neighbor, and her best friend, is Rick. He has not been “lifted up”. His mom chose not to have him entered into the program because of the side effects which could be dangerous. Will Josie and Rick fulfill their dreams of a future together? Josie invites Rick to a monthly socialization meeting. He does not want to go, but he cares so much for Josie that he acquiesces. He is rejected rudely by some in the group. Klara also attends and is threatened with abuse by some of the boys. A scene ensues, and Josie joins the group and abandons Rick and Klara. She is the hostess and is expected to behave politely toward her guests. Rick showed courage by confronting their cruelty; Josie did not. Klara exhibited great patience and thoughtfulness, as she always did. The genetically engineered children seemed far less considerate. The AF seemed more patient and compassionate than the actual humans in the room who stood by without much objection or ability to stop the abusive behavior as it grew worse. Both Karla and Rick showed more respect for each other than those genetically engineered, supposedly superior, human beings.
Although she is not one of the latest models, Klara does seem to possess unique skills. She is more intuitive and more observant than most AF. Klara, however, is only aware of her immediate world, the world she sees from her window. Klara believes that the sun possesses special powers to nourish all and to heal those who are ill. She witnessed what she believes was the “rebirth” of a beggar and his dog because of the sun’s power. She also witnessed and resents the abuse of the environment by machinery around her storefront. Klara though, is essentially a servant, programmed to be gentle and obedient even though she is also very intuitive and senses what is wrong and right with the world. She must hold her tongue, unless asked for her opinion, even when her analytical skills are very advanced and superior to the humans around her. She is able to understand problems and solve them. Although her advice is often simple and reduced to its most basic elements, her advice works and makes sense. She offers hope to human beings who are able to accept her.
As the AF are improved, however, the newer models also began to possess the faults that humans possess, like elitism. Although the latest models had always been welcomed by those already in the showroom, the latest models, thinking they were unobserved, showed arrogance as they mocked the older models among themselves. Garbage in, garbage out, seems to be the result of some programmers work.
Josie is one of the children that has suffered from the side effects of the “lifting up” experience, and it is feared that she will succumb to them in the end. She is often fatigued and ill. Her mother fearing she will lose her, has devised a plan to keep her. Will it succeed? Will it be necessary? Can an authentic substitute be created? Will it work? Is it ethical? Will she be able to accept her decision? How will this plan affect Josie and Klara’s future and/or Rick and Josie’s future?
Now that Rick is older and facing a bleak future, although he is truly intelligent with the mind of an engineer, his mom has misgivings about her decision not to enroll him in the program. He understands that his inventions have the power to help and to harm, but he believes that decision does not lie with him, but rather with government officials. His mom tries to enlist the favor of an old flame with influence, to get him into a limited program offered only to a select few, which will allow him to receive a higher education, but it doesn’t turn out as she planned it. Her old flame has been angry for many years and is vindictive. Yet this is a man who is supposed to possess the ability to choose the best and brightest for the educational institution he is involved with, which offers those not altered an opportunity for success. Where is his patience and kindness? Why is he superior? Why can’t he forgive a slight from so many years ago? As Klara and Rick observe the goings on, they both have the clearer understanding of what is taking place and have the most honorable and ethical reactions. Perhaps genetic engineering is not the best answer for society or civilization, since there are unintended consequences.
Will the reader have the courage to truly examine the issues raised in this book since they are issues confronting society today? Will technology positively or negatively alter the world. Will there always be people that take advantage of the situation at the expense of others? Will the inherent evil in some find its way into technological advances. Will only some be allowed to speak? Will only some be allowed to advance? Who will choose those “special” people. What qualifies them for that job?
In the end, will it be Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest or survival of the most arrogant and elite succeed? Will it be a combination of both ideas that succeeds? Is this the world we are inviting? Will it spin out of control? Is our identity politics and cancel culture permitting only one thought process which is already out of control? There are some parents today who wish to choose certain genetic traits for their children, some which are frivolous like the color of their eyes. Is genetic alteration ethical? Is cloning? Should some groups have a greater advantage over another? Should one’s influence effect someone’s chances of success or should the playing field be equal? Is that simply a utopian goal that is unattainable? Are machines contaminating our environment as they supposedly improve it? Should we destroy those machines? Should we try to develop more environmentally safe machinery? Should drones be employed? Are they an invasion of our privacy? Who should decide that, individuals or the government?
Another sub theme is the class structure of society. AF are an underclass and is their abuse acceptable? In addition, are they not another form of slave? They exist only to serve and receive no reward for their service and are threatened with dismantling and abandoned without a second thought. They are often abused physically, and often emotionally abused with insults. These AF have feelings, although Karla’s emotions seem far more developed than most. She always takes the road of optimism, even in the end. She never grows resentful and always maintains her equanimity.
As the androids become more sophisticated, some in society begin to fear them. In some ways they grow superior to human beings. Are the negative aspects of the androids a result of the input from their programmer’s personality? Some are defiant and arrogant. As protest groups develop, one wonders who will win, those that prefer less technology or those that prefer more so that life grows easier and easier for some even though it disadvantages others. Protest groups arise and divisiveness grows. Technology can create monsters as well as saviors. Do machines deserve respect? Should machines rule over human judgment? Will fear ultimately alter technological advances as they grow out of control?
All of these questions arose as I read this novel which is why I suggested it might be far more profound than the initial reaction of the reader. Who will have the courage to confront these issues and give them serious consideration?

 
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  "" by ebach (see profile) 02/24/22

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.

 
  "Klara and the Sun" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/25/22

It's been a long time since I've had a "can't put down" experience. I had no idea what the book was about and when I read the blurb, I rolled my eyes. Then I got totally drawn in and loved it. Very provocative and discussable. You have to wait until pretty far in before they reveal what a couple of things mean, but that's fun. Highly recommend

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 05/11/22

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/21/22

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