Ishiguro draws characters with a meticulous compassion. Reminiscent of a long (and possibly hackneyed) tradition of humanising robots in TV shows and movies from Small Wonder in the eighties to Bicentennial Man (starring Robin Williams) and WALL-E, his latest novel features Klara, a solar-powered AF (Artificial Friend) purchased by a sickly girl, Josie and her mother. Through Ishiguro’s descriptive fastidiousness, as well as a barely concealed pessimism about the utilitarianism and fundamental heartlessness of humanity, this tale of Klara and Josie becomes more than a life-affirming plot worthy of a Pixar film-adaptation. People are seldom truly kind and no one is free from the trappings of their shattered psyches—themes and concerns the author also confronted in Never Let Me Go and The Buried Giant. In the particularly heartbreaking case of Klara and the Sun, the Artificial Friend becomes a speculative mirror for a more universal failure to grapple meaningfully with loss, and like in Ishiguro’s previous novels, whether concerning clones, ogres, or robots, readers are painstakingly persuaded to remember that what makes us ‘human’ is, at best, an arbitrary collection of whims and ideological constructs—and how we love should already be up for permanent revision.
by Cyril Wong