Klara and the Sun

Knopf. Mar. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9780593318171. $27.95. F
When Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day; Never Let Me Go) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017, a member of the Academy noted, “He is not out to redeem the past, he is exploring what you have to forget in order to survive in the first place as an individual or as a society.” Here, in his first novel since winning that esteemed award, Ishiguro imagines a world in which artificial intelligence has advanced into a form of companionship and a potential mode of immortality. The book’s protagonist is Klara, an Artificial Friend with advanced observational capabilities. On sale in a shop, she is ultimately chosen by a family with a sick child, Josie. As Klara spends more time with the family, she comes to understand their collective hopes, dreams, and fears. Her objective processing of emotion slowly evolves into an understanding of the human condition. With restrained prose and vivid language, Ishiguro replaces the tired trope of whether computers can think with a complex meditation on whether computational processing can approximate emotion.
VERDICT Ishiguro’s latest novel is without resolution but will leave the reader with wonder.
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