KLARA AND THE SUN by Ishiguru
Engaging story of the near future by a writer who frets frequently about the likelihood of humans and robots existing. See Never Let Me Go where the non-humans seem definitely to get the short end of the stick. We've seen Frank Langella in the charming film, Robot & Frank, succeeding in dealing with senility and getting the most out of his bank robbing past by employing his son's gift of a robot to keep him focussed. HIs robot s basically a vacuum cleaner or other apppliance; not sophisticated; limited by his prime directive. But in Klara, who's not revealed to be a robot until page 149, we have a highly evolved creature, one whos self sacrifice and plain old kindness puts her human employers to shame.
As an AF, Artifial Friend, she has depth of soul and caring, and takes on her role to eliminate the loneliness of humans with whom she's placed with the greatest of gravitas. Her human family is flawed, but mostly kind to her and she never once v oices a complaint at her station in life. We're told she is a superior AF: very observant, intuitive, selfless. She does not hesitate a millisecond to agree to the her own termination if that act will guarantee a way for her ward to continue to exist.l
Klara appears to worship the sun, the way humans might a deity. Her prayers are answered and her young ward is saved. So robots will have the same needs we have in terms of belief? An interesting thesis. The biggest threats to the people and robots appears to be pollution of the environment. In reading this story, we realize the contemporanity of its issues.
It's clear we will hear more about the feasibility of living with robots who will assume tasks we find tiresome. What will be our moral responsibilities towards them?
Some story lines in the book seem to trail off without satisfactory resolution: the discarded Father, the discarded boyfriend who seeks revenge, the dead sister, Sal, the one-time "friend" of Klara named Rosa. There is in one scene a threat of physical harm to Klara, maybre carried out by her ward, Josie. These lapses seemed like plot holes to me, not too disturbing but curious all th same. Regardles, I look forward to his next book.