Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Science-fiction, literary fiction, dystopian
Read if you loved: Westworld (I haven’t read anything similar yet!)
Content warnings: None
Ahhh I was so excited for this book but sadly, I think I’ve got an unpopular opinion here.
Klara is an Artificial Friend whose only wish is to be taken home by a loving family. When Josie, a 15-year old with a mysterious illness, comes into the store, their instant connection opens the doors for her to step into the world of the same human beings she has quietly observed from behind the glass. Guided by the nourishment of the Sun and her uncanny ability to dissect and predict human behavior, Klara attempts to navigate the strange and twisted society she was created to support, and brings readers along for a mesmerizing journey. Kazuo Ishiguro is masterful in his writing, and this highly analytical yet simultaneously melancholic novel is gripping due to its unique approach to examining and deconstructing the human experience, but the overall storyline and culmination of events left me feeling underwhelmed.
For someone with a passion for both literature and science, I have not read a lot of science-fiction (something that definitely needs to change) so the premise of Klara and the Sun immediately felt fresh and new to me. Klara is a fascinating narrator and the highlight of this novel is hands-down the lens through which the readers learn about the world. It offers a removed “third-party” view on humanity, lending several opportunities for keen insight and thought-provoking commentary on the way we behave, think, and interact with one another. Moreover, settling readers in her perspective creates a sense of tension that the novel needs, as Klara is just as unaware of the way this dystopian society operates as the readers. It’s most certainly a slow-paced novel, so I appreciated the foreshadowing and suspense as it helped drive the plot forward in a book that relies predominantly on character assessments.
On the other hand, I simply wanted so much more. Maybe it’s because it is Ishiguro, and while I hesitate to make any comparisons as it has been well over a decade, I still remember the magic of Never Let Me Go. But in hindsight, I believe I would feel the same way if it were a different author as well. I don’t mind a slow-placed book – in fact, some of my favorite novels are very slow – but it needs to be more powerful in order to engage a reader at the same rate that fast-paced novels more easily achieve. Klara and the Sun has its moments, but by the time I was done, I just didn’t feel it the way I hoped I would. The plot as well as the insights gleaned from Klara started feeling repetitive after a point, and that combined with the very long chapters (they’re actually “parts”), made it difficult to get through certain scenes. The plot takes a very twisted turn at one point, and I found myself desperately hoping that we would delve into the depravity and go beyond the limited scope of the first half, but that didn’t happen.
It has been a while since I have struggled with a review like this – my thoughts on the book changed constantly as I recalled moments that I did love versus the ones that felt a tad bit disappointing. Those who appreciate a unique narrator and “thought-piece” novels may still enjoy this book, but it may not be for lovers of more fast-paced dystopian or science fiction. In any case, I would love to know what you think about Klara and the Sun because I anticipate an array of opinions! Drop yours in the comments below!