Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro’s eighth novel released this past February, has all the trappings one would expect from an Ishiguro story: dramatic irony, a mounting sense of dread, and careful ruminations on power, memory, love, and the unknowability of both self and other. It follows AF (Artificial Friend) Klara as she is purchased from a department store to act as companion to a young girl named Josie. Her simple happiness with her new home is short-lived, however: Josie is deteriorating from an unnamed illness and Klara becomes convinced that she’ll be the one to save her. She simply needs to convince the Sun—the being that powers Klara and the other AFs, and yes, that sun—to lend his nourishment to Josie.
Ishiguro’s oeuvre is one of those rare literary sets that is immediately identifiable by both style and theme but rarely by genre, as he more often than not examines similar questions under different generic constraints (his last novel, The Buried Giant, is based on Arthurian legend; his most lauded novel, The Remains of the Day, recalls post-war England). Klara and the Sun stands out in its return to the science fiction genre that Ishiguro explored with his 2005 Never Let Me Go. In fact, it’s all but impossible not to compare them. Even aside from genre, they share a concern with children specifically as a pressure point for asking what it means to be human. But Klara’s story is uniquely moving, its questions more expansive. Though perhaps not as gracefully rendered as Never Let Me Go, Klara is a stunning book in its own right and a vital addition to today’s proliferating sub-genre of climate change novels.