Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro's eighth novel, builds on the fundamentals of paranoia that humans have with Artificial Intelligence and technology advancements causing existential dread. The novel revolves around Klara as she becomes the AF (Artificial Friend) of Josie, a sickly girl and an array of characters that have impacted Klara's life.
Kazuo Ishiguro is one of the most well-known contemporary English writers. He was nominated for the Man Booker Prize four times and won it in 1989. The Swedish Academy described him as a writer "who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world," awarded Ishiguro the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017.
Like his other works, "Never Let Me Go," the events occur in the future where humans have reconstructed the world to fit their motives and wants. At times, Klara and the Sun sometimes feel almost innocent because of Artificial Intelligence or AF's naivety. The book is called Klara and the Sun because sunlight is the main energy source for AFs to operate.
Klara, our AF narrator, has short dark hair, kind eyes, but all these are apparent later. We are first to learn that Klara has a keen observational ability, which is why we will find that she has become Josie's companion. The AFs in the novel are friends but they are not on the same level as humans. At first, readers will believe that technology still has not progressed so substantially that AFs can mimic human behaviour.
Josie suffers from an illness for which her mother seems to blame herself and is in a state of trauma. A fascinating aspect of Ishiguro novels is that readers will understand the reasons behind the motives and the causes of the character's actions only later. This makes an Ishiguro novel's so enthralling, exciting, and just hard to put down.
The machine's curious observations
Klara stands in the Sun's pattern to receive energy. Through the novel, readers will feel that Klara is almost worshipping the sun. At the beginning of the novel, which is beautifully sunlit, set in an AF store. In the store, the AFs talk about learning and many times about the power of the sun. Klara seems to be revered, and she tries to thank the Sun for keeping her alive.
As the plot progresses, we realise Klara has more to do than being Josie's AF, bringing the question of AI replacing humans. A beautiful quote, "Our generation still carries the old feelings. A part of us refuses to let go. The part that wants to keep believing there is something unreachable inside each of us. " shows how one character believes that is a minor difference between humans and beings like Klara.
Klara is an AF created by humans. Her sight comprises box patterns to identify her surroundings. Thus, she lacks human mobility, so navigating even a gravel driveway is a carefully planned projected adventure for her. But the keen AF has the curious mind to learn and replicate, and this quality sets her aside to be Josie's and her family's necessity in their lives.
Book Cover and why it is worth a read
The cover of the book is minimal, almost reflecting the use of minimalism by Ishiguro. A hand behind the sun in front of an evening orange background. The cover is a perfect portrait of what Josie, Klara, and the other characters revolve around. The novel touches upon an emotion that humans and many readers can relate to.
The idea of humans being replaced by machines is not a new trope used in novels. However, Kazuo Ishiguro uses his signature style to make readers question and doubt the harm of replacement and consider what it exactly means to be human. Ishiguro leaves us to presume the order of life and its conflicts in Klara and the Sun in the world set in the future because he never clearly explains every detail. Readers will question whether a machine can replicate our consciousness, what are family bonds and what future are we building towards.