Have you ever read a book prized by pretty much everyone and felt totally excluded because you just didn’t “get it”? That’s how I felt after reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. While I could see his talent for writing, I disliked the characters too much to let myself become immersed in the dystopian world he had created. However, since I enjoyed his writing style, I thought I should give him another chance and read his newest novel : Klara and the Sun.
As its title suggests, the main character of this book is called Klara, a kind of solar powered robot called “artificial friend” (AF). Because of her programming, Klara devotes a great part of her thoughts to the Sun, who she worships and that I came to consider as a full-fledged character. Throughout the novel, and through Klara’s eyes, the reader slowly discovers the pros and cons of a futuristic lifestyle that puts performance above everything else.
There are many similarities between this story and the one told in Never Let Me Go. While the settings couldn’t be more different, the reader finds himself in a similar situation; clues are given bit by bit, but you still have to try to piece them together to understand the rules of a foreign universe. To add to the cryptic atmosphere, you also have to take into account Klara’s limited knowledge of things as a robot. For example, she refers to what I assume to be a type of computer or tablet as an “oblong” and will only call the kitchen and living room of a house the “open plan.” Nothing too confusing, but it definitely helps the reader share her perspective and understand her reactions throughout the novel.
Most of the things I disliked about Kazuo’s previous novel were still present in Klara and the Sun. For instance, I still thought the dialogues lacked authenticity. In his effort to keep some information from us to maintain the puzzling aspect of the story, he writes dialogues in a way that felt forced to me. I couldn’t “hear” the characters speaking in my head the same way I did when I read Rodham, for example. It lacked realism. However, his descriptions were perfect. I just love his ability to find the exact words to illustrate a character’s emotions or to depict a specific setting. His portrayal of the Sun brought me back so many memories of the gorgeous sunsets I had the chance to admire in my hometown.
In all, I would recommend this book to anyone who’s looking for a slower paced novel filled with clever observations that will make you reflect on a number of things without making you anxious about the future. Indeed, while Klara and the Sun can be considered a part of the science fiction genre, it stands out from the usual action packed or alarmist science fiction novels thanks to its unhurried plot line.