‘Klara and the Sun’ by Kazuo Ishiguro – review with spoilers

Since ‘Artificial Intelligence’ directed by Steven Spielberg, the ethical problems related to the robots were put to the front. This is evidenced by other movies in the same vein, such as ‘Ex-machina’ directed by Alex Garland. 

‘Klara and the Sun’ uses these themes and is maybe less strong in terms of the plot line. There is some danger Josie would die, and Klara would have to impersonate Josie for the Mother, as well the Father would like to destroy Klara for this not to take place. But these aspects of the book are so skilfully drawn into the characterisation that the effect on the reader is more nuanced. A planned film adaptation might draw on these plot elements more vigorously. Despite being rather more character-driven than the movies mentioned before, the book is equally strong in the message it conveys. It clearly warns us of many ethical aspects of androids, such as replacing your own baby with a robot. 

Klara, an android and the narrator in this book, is very observant. We can see this from the start when she observes passers-by, and she can tell so much about them just seeing them for a brief movement. In this way, it may share many characteristics of an autistic person, such as Mr Stevens in ‘The Remains of the Day’ by Ishiguro. She seems to learn the humans like learning a foreign language, but her superior analytical skills and identic memory allows her to make good progress with this. However, certain emotions like loneliness remain inexplicable to her. It is not clear how much Klara understands certain emotions and how much she mimics others. Her gifts in parroting others are well depicted in the scenes where she impersonates Josie. This is exactly how psychologists claim autistic girls learn to adopt and operate in their personal sphere. 

‘Klara and the Sun’ is very often compared to ‘Never Let Me Go’, where the main characters are clones, but what is different about these two books is the tone and the ending. ‘Never Let Me Go’ could be considered a tearjerker, whereas ‘Klara and the Sun’ has an upbeat tone and ends well for the characters. In the latter, even the doomed love between two children, who are Klara’s friends, is portrayed without unnecessary longing and disappointment. It is clearly a happy book and could be pitched to a younger audience, such as school pupils. I would not be surprised if this book was placed on curriculum one day. I think that the aim of the author in this book was to make this book memorable, as, after the publication, he repeatedly asked about what makes a book memorable. He also questions why such things are not taught in creative writing courses, which focus on the issue of making the reader turning the pages. 

Quite perplexing is Klara’s relationship with the sun. It is clear that she is solar-propelled, but the sun is for her some sort of religion or cult. It is apparent when she prays for Josie’s recovery and the fact that she attributes various recoveries to the sun itself. Not only Josie’s but also a beggar and his dog’s recovery.