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Monday, June 21, 2021

Review: Klara and the Sun

 Klara and the Sun is Kazuo Ishiguro's "science fiction" novel about a single mom who purchases an Artificial Friend (AF) for their ailing daughter.  The "science fiction" is in quotes, because it's very clear that Ishiguro doesn't understand very much about the technology behind machine intelligence, nor does he really care. The novel, as it is, is a story about how humans would treat different intelligences differently. The novel is told entirely from Klara's point of view, and Ishiguro chooses to endow Klara with very human like traits, for instance, Klara is solar powered, so she develops a religion revolving around worshipping the sun.

Ishiguro loves playing with perspectives, and how you view Josie, her mom, and the family next door changes as you proceed through the novel, learning one thing after another about the family and the world they live in. Again, this isn't science fiction --- there's no true world building in the novel, and in fact, the world Klara exists in isn't believable in any way, shape or form. An AI with the intelligence of Klara would probably not be trusted with children unattended.

I didn't dislike the book, but many times I thought the characters in the story (especially Josie's dad, but also Rick) indulge in Klara's requests without questioning, which I would have found peculiar and you could see the author manipulating those characters to fulfill his story, rather than thinking through about whether you would do something to indulge even a beloved, innocent-looking AI.

This is one of those books that would only be successful if written by a Nobel-prize winner. A typical genre science fiction writer publishing this book would be dismissed out of hand. 

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