The Sun always has a way to reach us.Klara and the Sun
At the beginning of 2021 I read Ian McEwan’s machines like me that explored artificial intelligence and the ripple affects on humanity and ultimately questioned if AI would surpass humanity and become hostile, whereas I feel Kazuo Ishiguro focused on the positive, optimistic side of AI and their loyalty. Whether it would be possible to be living in harmony with artificial friends. I was very excited when I read the synopsis for Klara and the sun and immediately added it to my want to read list on goodreads and pre-ordered it for the release on the 2nd March. The book is beautiful inside and out and I was not disappointed.
Klara and the sun is unforgettable, such a lovely story with so much hope and optimism even at the darkest times. I loved this book and it gave me such a warm feeling. To me this is a story about trying to understand human feelings and actions, loyalty and understanding what makes us all individually special. Whether we are ultimately special or are we replaceable?
I liked that all the characters seemed to be asking the same questions and were on a learning journey together. Klara (an artificial friend) is the narrator of the book and the story is told from her perspective which means we would only know and be able to understand as much as we are told. The AFs ( artificial friends) are powered by solar energy and therefore the sun is so important to them for nourishment and to keep them strong which is a prevailing theme throughout the book However Klara’s generation, the B2s have difficulty with solar absorption which may lead to personality defects which makes the sun even more important. The personification of the sun really gave us this omniscient, powerful character that was our only hope it seemed. Klara worships the sun and believes so strongly in the help and the love that the sun provides making everything better and there is a real belief that the sun understands human behaviours and concepts such as love and loss. Society has been divided into the ‘lifted’ and the ‘unlifted’ which is often the source of tension throughout the story. Although the idea of being lifted or unlifted is not explored in depth, we understand that there are difficulties for both Josie (lifted) and for her best friend, Rick (unlifted) and the guilt of the parents for their decisions.
The story is set in a near future dystopian America where AFs are being developed and are bought as friends for lonely children. The role of the AF is to protect the child who chooses them and be there for their needs. Klara spends some time in a shop and has a few people interested in her however she holds out for 14 year old Josie who is frail and suffers will long periods of debilitating illness, Josie pre-warns Klara that it may not always be good…that things may be ‘Strange’ but she will always be taken care of and Klara becomes Josie’s AF and spends all her time trying to help Josie feel better and not be lonely. Klara finds herself in all sorts of situations and is always trying to work out what is happening around her and how she can help Josie and what her role is in this new life. There is something dark or sinister happening in the background of this story and we spend the book wondering what it may be and how it affects our characters. the lead up and reveal of events throughout the book are written beautifully, there is unease but the writing is also subtle and draws you in without it feeling over the top. I found it such a good read and was reading through it quickly as I wanted to see what would happen, I had to slow down to really spend some more time in this story.
There seems to be lots of family secrets or things that must not be spoken about which gives the story an air of mystery. However Klara’s innocence keeps us hopeful.
I like Klara. I like her observations and how she uses them to draw conclusions, often in a very human way, as I would assess situations. however we are always being reminded that Klara is an AI and not human whereas in other AI fiction there is a focus on trying to show how human AI are. Klara’s vision is split into boxes just like a CAPTCHA, when the internet tries to identify if you are a robot. It gives the story a surreal feeling and you experience a range of different views in a small grid through Klara’s eyes. There are also times where Klara is experiencing her memories differently and can manipulate them to see them in different ways or happening in different places which also adds to the surreal element. I like that Klara has no desire to become more or feel any superiority over humans or other models of AI. Klara refers to people in third person, again reminding us that there is something not quite right and she is not human. Instead of using names for others such as Klara’s Mum or Paul, Klara’s dad, she refers to them as the mother and the father which gives her a detached feeling to relationships of people to Josie and keeps her removed from them personally.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys sci-fi or general fiction. A truly wonderful read 5/5.