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Klara and the Sun Kindle Edition
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 BOOKER PRIZE
ON PRESIDENT OBAMA’S SUMMER 2021 READING LIST
The magnificent new novel from Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro--author of Never Let Me Go and the Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day.
“The Sun always has ways to reach us.”
From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change forever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.
In Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?
“One of the most affecting and profound novels Ishiguro has written. . . . I'll go for broke and call Klara and the Sun a masterpiece that will make you think about life, mortality, the saving grace of love: in short, the all of it.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR
“A delicate, haunting story, steeped in sorrow and hope” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“With his new novel, the Nobel Prize-winner reaffirms himself as our most profound observer of human fragility in the technological era.” —Giles Harvey, The New York Times
“Moving and beautiful. . . an unequivocal return to form, a meditation in the subtlest shades on the subject of whether our species will be able to live with everything it has created… [A] feverish read, [a] one-sitter. . . . Few writers who’ve ever lived have been able to create moods of transience, loss and existential self-doubt as Ishiguro has — not art about the feelings, but the feelings themselves.” —The Los Angeles Times
“For four decades now, Ishiguro has written eloquently about the balancing act of remembering without succumbing irrevocably to the past. Memory and the accounting of memory, its burdens and its reconciliation, have been his subjects. . . Klara and the Sun complements [Ishiguro’s] brilliant vision. . . . There’s no narrative instinct more essential, or more human.” —The New York Times Book Review
“As with Ishiguro’s other works, the rich inner reflections of his protagonists offer big takeaways, and Klara’s quiet but astute observations of human nature land with profound gravity . . . This dazzling genre-bending work is a delight.” —Publishers Weekly [starred review]
“A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.” —Kirkus Reviews [starred review]
“A deft dystopian fable about the innocence of a robot that asks big questions about existence” —The Financial Times
“Flawless . . . This is a novel for fans of Never Let Me Go, with which it shares a DNA of emotional openness, the quality of letting us see ourselves from the outside, and a vision of humanity which — while not exactly optimistic — is tender, touching and true.” —John Self, The Times
“With its hushed intensity of emotion, this fable about robot love and loneliness confirms Ishiguro as a master prose stylist.” —Ian Thomson, The Evening Standard --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
When I was lucky enough to see him like that, I’d lean my face forward to take in as much of his nourishment as I could, and if Rosa was with me, I’d tell her to do the same. After a minute or two, we’d have to return to our positions, and when we were new, we used to worry that because we often couldn’t see the Sun from mid-store, we’d grow weaker and weaker. Boy AF Rex, who was alongside us then, told us there was nothing to worry about, that the Sun had ways of reaching us wherever we were. He pointed to the floorboards and said, ‘That’s the Sun’s pattern right there. If you’re worried, you can just touch it and get strong again.’
There were no customers when he said this, and Manager was busy arranging something up on the Red Shelves, and I didn’t want to disturb her by asking permission. So I gave Rosa a glance, and when she looked back blankly, I took two steps forward, crouched down and reached out both hands to the Sun’s pattern on the floor. But as soon as my fingers touched it, the pattern faded, and though I tried all I could – I patted the spot where it had been, and when that didn’t work, rubbed my hands over the floorboards – it wouldn’t come back. When I stood up again Boy AF Rex said:
‘Klara, that was greedy. You girl AFs are always so greedy.’
Even though I was new then, it occurred to me straight away it might not have been my fault; that the Sun had withdrawn his pattern by chance just when I’d been touching it. But Boy AF Rex’s face remained serious.
‘You took all the nourishment for yourself, Klara. Look, it’s gone almost dark.’
Sure enough the light inside the store had become very gloomy. Even outside on the sidewalk, the Tow-Away Zone sign on the lamp post looked gray and faint.
‘I’m sorry,’ I said to Rex, then turning to Rosa: ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to take it all myself.’
‘Because of you,’ Boy AF Rex said, ‘I’m going to become weak by evening.’
‘You’re making a joke,’ I said to him. ‘I know you are.’
‘I’m not making a joke. I could get sick right now. And what about those AFs rear-store? There’s already something not right with them. They’re bound to get worse now. You were greedy, Klara.’
‘I don’t believe you,’ I said, but I was no longer so sure. I looked at Rosa, but her expression was still blank.
‘I’m feeling sick already,’ Boy AF Rex said. And he sagged forward.
‘But you just said yourself. The Sun always has ways to reach us. You’re making a joke, I know you are.’
I managed in the end to convince myself Boy AF Rex was teasing me. But what I sensed that day was that I had, without meaning to, made Rex bring up something uncomfortable, something most AFs in the store preferred not to talk about. Then not long afterwards that thing happened to Boy AF Rex, which made me think that even if he had been joking that day, a part of him had been serious too.
It was a bright morning, and Rex was no longer beside us because Manager had moved him to the front alcove. Manager always said that every position was carefully conceived, and that we were as likely to be chosen when standing at one as at another. Even so, we all knew the gaze of a customer entering the store would fall first on the front alcove, and Rex was naturally pleased to get his turn there. We watched him from mid-store, standing with his chin raised, the Sun’s pattern all over him, and Rosa leaned over to me once to say, ‘Oh, he does look wonderful! He’s bound to find a home soon!’
On Rex’s third day in the front alcove, a girl came in with her mother. I wasn’t so good then at telling ages, but I remember estimating thirteen and a half for the girl, and I think now that was
correct. The mother was an office worker, and from her shoes and suit we could tell she was high-ranking. The girl went straight to Rex and stood in front of him, while the mother came wandering our way, glanced at us, then went on towards the rear, where two AFs were sitting on the Glass Table, swinging their legs freely as Manager had told them to do. At one point the mother called, but the girl ignored her and went on staring up at Rex’s face. Then the child reached out and ran a hand down Rex’s arm. Rex said nothing, of course, just smiled down at her and remained still, exactly as we’d been told to do when a customer showed special interest.
‘Look!’ Rosa whispered. ‘She’s going to choose him! She loves him. He’s so lucky!’ I nudged Rosa sharply to silence her, because we could easily be heard.
Now it was the girl who called to the mother, and then soon they were both standing in front of Boy AF Rex, looking him up and down, the girl sometimes reaching forward and touching him. The two conferred in soft voices, and I heard the girl say at one point, ‘But he’s perfect, Mom. He’s beautiful.’ Then a moment later, the child said, ‘Oh, but Mom, come on.’
Manager by this time had brought herself quietly behind them. Eventually the mother turned to Manager and asked:
‘Which model is this one?’
‘He’s a B2,’ Manager said. ‘Third series. For the right child, Rex will make a perfect companion. In particular, I feel he’ll encourage a conscientious and studious attitude in a young person.’
‘Well this young lady here could certainly do with that.’
‘Oh, Mother, he’s perfect.’
Then the mother said: ‘B2, third series. The ones with the solar absorption problems, right?’
She said it just like that, in front of Rex, her smile still on her face. Rex kept smiling too, but the child looked baffled and glanced from Rex to her mother.
‘It’s true,’ Manager said, ‘that the third series had a few minor issues at the start. But those reports were greatly exaggerated. In environments with normal levels of light, there’s no problem whatsoever.’
‘I’ve heard solar malabsorption can lead to further problems,’ the mother said. ‘Even behavioral ones.’
‘With respect, ma’am, series three models have brought immense happiness to many children. Unless you live in Alaska or down a mineshaft, you don’t need to worry.’
The mother went on looking at Rex. Then finally she shook her head. ‘I’m sorry, Caroline. I can see why you like him. But he’s not for us. We’ll find one for you that’s perfect.’
Rex went on smiling until after the customers had left, and even after that, showed no sign of being sad. But that’s when I remembered about him making that joke, and I was sure then that those questions about the Sun, about how much of his nourishment we could have, had been in Rex’s mind for some time.
Today, of course, I realize Rex wouldn’t have been the only one. But officially, it wasn’t an issue at all – every one of us had specifications that guaranteed we couldn’t be affected by factors such as our positioning within a room. Even so, an AF would feel himself growing lethargic after a few hours away from the Sun, and start to worry there was something wrong with him – that he had some fault unique to him and that if it became known, he’d never find a home.
That was one reason why we always thought so much about being in the window. Each of us had been promised our turn, and each of us longed for it to come. That was partly to do with what Manager called the ‘special honor’ of representing the store to the outside. Also, of course, whatever Manager said, we all knew we were more likely to be chosen while in the window. But the big thing, silently understood by us all, was the Sun and his nourishment. Rosa did once bring it up with me, in a whisper, a little while before our turn came around.
‘Klara, do you think once we’re in the window, we’ll receive so much goodness we’ll never get short again?’
I was still quite new then, so didn’t know how to answer, even though the same question had been in my mind.
Then our turn finally came, and Rosa and I stepped into the window one morning, making sure not to knock over any of the display the way the pair before us had done the previous week. The store, of course, had yet to open, and I thought the grid would be fully down. But once we’d seated ourselves on the Striped Sofa, I saw there was a narrow gap running along the bottom of the grid – Manager must have raised it a little when checking everything was ready for us – and the Sun’s light was making a bright rectangle that came up onto the platform and finished in a straight line just in front of us. We only needed to stretch our feet a little to place them within its warmth. I knew then that whatever the answer to Rosa’s question, we were about to get all the nourishment we would need for some time to come. And once Manager touched the switch and the grid climbed up all the way, we became covered in dazzling light.
I should confess here that for me, there’d always been another reason for wanting to be in the window which had nothing to do with the Sun’s nourishment or being chosen. Unlike most AFs, unlike Rosa, I’d always longed to see more of the outside – and to see it in all its detail. So once the grid went up, the realization that there was now only the glass between me and the sidewalk, that I was free to see, close up and whole, so many things I’d seen before only as corners and edges, made me so excited that for a moment I nearly forgot about the Sun and his kindness to us. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B08B7SKRWX
- Publisher : Knopf Canada (March 2 2021)
- Language : English
- File size : 1769 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 418 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,223 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from Canada
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Very few novelists have been able to make futuristic writing interesting in a sustained way. Doris Lessing was bad and Ray Bradbury really innovative and fascinating.
But this book will waste your time if you are interested in A.I.; more so if you like character development.
I am currently enjoying another book by Kazuo Ishiguro called Never Let Me Go. I also downloaded The Remains of the Day. I think I have found a new author to follow.
You'll enjoy this book if you are interested in thinking about some of the possibilities that could come from humans and androids intermingling.
I gave it a 5 because I felt it was very well written and kept my interest throughout. Gobbled it up.
Top reviews from other countries
Plotwise, the narrator is Klara, an AF (Artificial Friend) to the teenage Josie, who lives an isolated life, aside from neighbour and potential boyfriend Rick, out in the country. She's is suffering from an illness whose cause is not really made specific. In fact in this dystopian future quite a number of things are not quite clear for much of the book. (What, for example, is the pollution spewing Cooting Machine?) Anyway, Klara's job is to observe and learn about Klara, and this she does, though her observations do become rather tiresome after a while. And I'm afraid the huge error she makes in regard to the Sun is simply, for me, not believable for one so otherwise intelligent. And the anti-climatic ending, while poignant, I found unsatisfying.
I kept going with this because it was Kazuo Ishiguru and does contain some fine passages, but it was a bit disappointing really.
If this doesn’t win awards and make it onto all of the best of the year lists I will be astonished.
Reading Klara and the Sun is a troubling experience. The emotional content is strong, while the world seems different from ours but disturbingly familiar. When I finished the book, I was left emotionally drained and it took me a few days to slowly arrange the book's ideas in my head. I really recommend this book.
--------- Spoiler Alert -----------
Klara and the Sun is set in the very near future, in a world that is clearly derived from ours. Technology is a bit more advanced, and inequality is even more pronounced. The novel is not conspicuously political, and the action of the novel is largely set in a distant out-of-town location where social reality barely intrudes. Yet there are half-hidden undertones of a disturbing political reality. Fascism is on the rise; big business continues to pollute the environment; society is divided between an elite class who can afford 'uplifting' for their children, though the process is risky, and an underclass who are effectively barred from higher education and decent jobs; most of society is 'post-employed'. It reminds me of how the social realities behind Jane Austen's novels -- slavery, the French Revolution, the oppression of women -- appear to be ignored in her vision of bucolic tranquillity but actually motivate her novels at a deeper level.
Klara herself is an AF, an 'artificial friend'. Klara has been designed to have a deep intuitive understanding of relationships and a real empathy for the humans she is supposed to befriend. However, Ishiguro goes to some lengths to show that these are really Klara's only skills. She has very little understanding of how the world works. Her mobility is limited and she has no senses of taste or smell. She can visually perceive simple scenes, but when there are too many people, or the setting is new to her, the scene breaks up into boxes that are barely connected. Sometimes she relates objects visually to views from her memory that are irrelevant: a line of coffee cups in the shop with a line of objects in the barn. Patterns of sunlight from a window which a human would ignore, have significance for Klara. Klara's world is different from and much simpler than ours.
Klara's simplicity, and her own dependence on solar power, leads her to a home-made religion of sun worship. Ishiguro's skill as an author makes it very believable that Klara's strong sense of empathy with human beings combined with her lack of knowledge of the real world leads her to the intuitive sense that the sun has human feelings and super-human capabilities.
Klara goes on to potentially sacrifice herself to persuade the sun to cure her human, Josie, from a disease that we eventually find is related to the process of 'uplift' that is to give her a chance of a career in this dystopian society. Klara believes that her sacrifice is what saved Josie. If true, it means that Klara has denied herself the role of 'continuing' Josie, by acting as her -- something that could have won Klara the love of 'the mother' and Ricky, 'the boyfriend'. It is very reminiscent of the butler in The Remains of the Day, who sacrificed his chance of love for a cause that proved to be pointless.
Klara ends up in a scrapyard, only able to move her head around so she can see the sky, and to slowly put her memories in order. It is a heart-breaking end to a story where she has given everything and received nothing in return, but where Klara has no bitterness at all because that ability was not programmed into her.
On one level, this is a story about artificial intelligence and an ethical side that has so far almost been ignored -- if we create beings that are capable of love and empathy, we should then be responsible for how we treat them. Mary Shelley understood this problem when she wrote Frankenstein, but most of the discussion of the ethics of AI today focusses only on the effect on humans.
On another level, this is a story about us now -- about how we use other people and are used by them. Klara and the Sun rings true emotionally because it is talking about exploitative relationships of a kind that we have seen, maybe experienced, ourselves. The political and social backdrop of the novel, so like present-day America where social inequality and individuality is taken to extremes, mirrors the way Klara is exploited. Klara's sacrifice and prayer to a non-existent sun-god likewise show humanity's response to that inequality and soullessness, in religion and sacrifice.
Klara's naivety and intuition lead her to a sacrifice that may be pointless, but show her to be the only real human in the book.