Klara and the Sun

Books on Tape. Mar. 2021. 320p. 10:17 hrs. ISBN 9780593349304. $85.50. F
Nobel Prize winner Ishiguro’s eighth novel (after The Buried Giant)—a poignant, ultimately celebratory exploration of what it means to be human—is beautifully realized in narrator Sura Siu’s virtuosic performance of Klara, a solar-powered AF (artificial friend) who has been purchased for Josie, a critically ill teenager. Through the narrow frame of Klara’s earnest and childlike first-person point of view, a disturbing near-future dystopia is gradually revealed; technology has “lifted” children to exceptional intelligence, but has also “substituted” many adults out of jobs, resulting in a starkly divided society that seems to be teetering on the brink of collapse. With hopes of finding a cure for Josie’s mysterious illness, Klara tries to learn all she can from her experiences; in the process, she acquires not just knowledge but also humanity. Ishiguro’s precise, deceptively simple prose, coupled with Klara’s limited viewpoint, creates a stifling sense of foreboding that Siu wonderfully contrasts with her spirited voices for the novel’s often-exasperating human characters. Siu’s depictions of Klara, Josie, and Josie’s teenage friends will likely resonate with many YA listeners (and their parents).
VERDICT This powerful look at the varied and often negative consequences of modern technology underscores the fragility and preciousness of human beings, an all-too-acute awareness in a world coping with a global pandemic and widespread social upheaval.
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