Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro is a novel based on an artificial robot learning and navigating the complicated and wide range of human emotions and feelings. This novel was released in March 2021 but I am willing to say that this will definitely be one of the best reads for me in the entire year going forward. When a novel gets you thinking about things during reading and after you’ve put it down, you know you’ve got something special and Klara and the Sun is nothing short of amazing. As with all things, I am only saddened that many readers will undoubtedly shun this type of story and neglect it. However, Klara and the Sun is a must read in my opinion.
“Until recently, I didn’t think that humans could choose loneliness. That there were sometimes forces more powerful than the wish to avoid loneliness.” – Klara
The novel follows Klara, an artificial friend, from its time in a store up for sale to rich and gifted kids through its journey on having to learn and deal with humans and their emotions. Klara, being more observational than other AF’s of its same kind and model, is able to notice things and ask questions that may seem trivial to other AF’s. Their main function is to serve and be the best kind of friend to whoever kid chooses them but they don’t seem to want to understand what goes into that task, unlike Klara. The majority of the story goes through Klara and its interaction between Josie, a young girl with health issues, her mother, and Josie’s childhood friend Rick. The beauty and heart of this novel is how Klara can interpret so many things that humans do when interacting with one another such as tone of voice, body posture and eye contact and having to learn how to respond accordingly. It very much feels like you yourself as a reader is learning of human behavior through the eyes of a robot. Minor details that we hardly notice or don’t think about everyday as humans can be seen differently through the AF although Klara does a great job of usually coming up with the right response.
While Josie, Rick and the other characters in the novel are not especially interesting, their job is to highlight the wide range of emotions that real humans go through. This includes happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness, hopelessness, despair, etc. Similarly, Klara and the Sun evokes a lot of emotions out of its readers as well. While there are moments of happiness, I wouldn’t exactly label this novel as such. In fact, it does more to highlight the exact opposite. I absolutely loved the ending. It is both beautiful and sad. I had asked myself so many questions upon completion of this novel. Is it normal to feel such a way for a AI robot that ultimately shouldn’t have any feelings? How would a robot understand the complications of love? Is it reciprocating its love to the humans because it is wired to do so or does it learn along the way and build its own understanding and react based on that instead? These are all themes that have been explored before but somehow Klara and the Sun just feels so refreshing and new. The author really did a good job at breaking things down and the overall theme and atmosphere of the novel is superb.
“There was something very special, but it wasn’t inside Josie. It was inside those who loved her.” – Klara
Klara and the Sun earns high praises from me if that wasn’t already clear. There are only a few movies I’m willing to rewatch and there are even less amount of books that I am willing to re-read a second time in the future. I am proud to say that this novel earns a place on that list.
P.S – I’ve read some online discussions on this book (because yes, I love it that much) and many were discussing of how the sun played its part on the healing or lack of it. I think many of the readers were overcomplicating things. In my eyes, it was clear from the beginning that Klara viewed the sun as what humans view as a higher spiritual being, aka God. The sun gives Klara power and energy because it is solar powered and therefore, Klara likely believes that it could also do the same for humans. Similar to humans going to church to pray for loved ones to get better, Klara believes that the barn is likely where the sun resides at. Similar to how humans don’t discuss their prayers with others for fear it may not work, Klara is very hesitant on discussing what it is doing in the barn with Rick and others for the very same fear. I feel this part is brilliant because in most stories, AI robots usually view their human creators as their ultimate master. Here though we have an AI robot that actually believes in a spiritual being similar to humans.