Book Notes: Klara & The Sun

Post-reading impressions on Kazuo Ishiguro's "Klara & The Sun."

Book Notes: Klara & The Sun
Photo by Valery Sysoev / Unsplash

Date Finished: Aug 27, 2022
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Tags: #transhumanism #faith

Contains general spoilers

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

An Artificial Friend (AF), Klara, recounts her experience caring for Josie, the “child” she is purchased to care for and support. Klara is uncommonly observant and seemingly conscious, even if she lacks comprehensive knowledge about the world. She believes her purpose in life is to keep people from feeling lonely and believes the Sun to be a benevolent personal deity.

🎨 Impressions

Klara & The Sun had what I’m starting to imagine as a classic Ishiguro ending. It was quiet and quietly sad, not sensational or sentimental, but yearning and poignant just the same.

I thought it made a powerful point about humanity and Klara’s lack thereof. The book suggests that to be human is to ever be potentially lonely — there’s a loneliness inside of people. However, there is no loneliness inside Klara. As much as she reveals and reflects humanity in her dealings with others and the Sun, the sadness prompted by her situation is our sadness, not Klara’s.

Besides the story, I thought the dialogue was often stilted and just ill-fitting for many of the characters, especially the younger ones. I don’t remember feeling the same about The Buried Giant, but the period/setting may have blunted it. Still, I thought Klara was excellent, and her dialogue was appropriately wooden for a robot.

How I Discovered It

The book first appeared on my radar in a review by Joy Clarkson in Plough Quarterly.

Who Should Read It?

That is a good question. Swashbuckling science-fiction this is not! It’s a bit of a thinker — actually, maybe a feeler is more accurate — and I don’t think it’s an especially appealing read unless you’re interested in considering what Klara can teach us about being human.

🌱 How the Book Changed Me

I can’t say the book changed me, but it did move me. I appreciate the way Ishiguro deals with the complexities of his characters, and Klara is a worthy vehicle for the trope of exploring what it means to be human through intelligent machines. Of course, others will disagree, but I believe the book comes down on the side of humanity’s ineffable qualities.

We all want to “continue” forever, for ourselves, but probably even more for the people who love us.

📌 My Top 3 Quotes

“At the same time, what was becoming clear to me was the extent to which humans, in their wish to escape loneliness, made manoeuvres that were very complex and hard to fathom, and I saw it was possible that the consequences of Morgan’s Falls had at no stage been within my control.”
“Perhaps all humans are lonely. At least potentially.”
“But then suppose you stepped into one of those rooms,’ he said, ‘and discovered another room within it. And inside that room, another room still. Rooms within rooms within rooms. Isn’t that how it might be, trying to learn Josie’s heart? No matter how long you wandered through those rooms, wouldn’t there always be others you’d not yet entered?"

📒 Summary + Notes

  • What I found most interesting about the story was how Klara exhibits a primitive religious consciousness. While I think the story concludes that Klara is not capable of filling in for a person, her turn towards the Sun as an object is probably her most human-like quality.
  • I’ve often laughed to myself that it’ll be easy to know when we’ve created genuine artificial intelligence because the A.I, aware of its existence and facing the fact that it may not have ever existed, will immediately worship.
  • Klara petitions the Sun for “his special help” to heal Josie from an illness, making sacrifices and keeping her religious entreaties secret from the people in her life. It’s fascinating stuff and not killer-robot science fiction.
  • Are human beings just so much data stored organically instead of in circuitry? Or is there a spark, a sprawling interior castle lit from deep within, that makes people more than meat? Is everyone who ever existed inimitable?

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