This month’s book was Klara and the Sun by Kazou Ishiguro. Set some time in the future, the story starts in a store selling robots, or Artificial Friends (AF’s), who are sold as companions for children. The story is narrated by one particular AF, Klara. AF’s learn through observation, something at which Klara is exceptionally skilled. She carefully watches customers and passers-by, hoping someone will purchase her. However, like other AF’s, her experience of the world is very limited until she is finally purchased.
Klara is finally chosen by 14-year-old Josie, a “lifted” (genetically engineered) child who, as with other such children, is home schooled by online tutors. Living in a remote area, with a working mother, her life before Klara’s arrival is a lonely one. The lifting process carries risks and Josie is seriously ill (her elder sister had previously died). Solar-powered Klara uses her special relationship with the sun to beg it to heal Josie, while Josie’s parents wonder if Klara can replace Josie if she does not recover.
The book provides a somewhat scary picture of the future of technology and explores big questions such as whether AI can provide empathy and what it means to love. None of us at the meeting are particular fans of science fiction, so would not choose this book. It must be said, however, it is very well written, as would be expected from this author.
Our future reading list is as follows:
Jun The Course of Love Alain de Botton
Jul This Lovely City Louisa Hare
Aug Open Water Caleb Azumah Nelson
Sept Beautiful World Where Are You Sally Rooney
Oct Love After Love Ingrid Persaud
Nov Frostquake Juliet Nicolson