Klara and the Sun: A novel

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Hardcover, 2021

Call number

FIC ISH

Collection

Publication

Knopf (2021), Edition: First Edition, 320 pages

Description

"From her place in the store that sells artificial friends, Klara--an artificial friend with outstanding observational qualities--watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change forever, Klara she is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans. In this luminous tale, Klara and the Sun, Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?"--

Media reviews

In de licht dystopische roman voert Ishiguro een balanseer act uit op de rand van kitch. Hij slaagt er echter op een uitzonderlijke wijze in om in evenwicht te blijven. Klara en de zon is een zeer geslaagde, enigszins verontrustende en gelaagde nieuwe roman van de meesterverteller en
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Nobelprijswinnaar…lees verde
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10 more
Most of Ishiguro’s novels are slender books that are more complicated than they at first seem; Klara and the Sun is by contrast more simple than it seems, less novel than parable. Though much is familiar here—the restrained language, the under-stated first-person narration—the new book is
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much more overt than its predecessors about its concerns.... Ishiguro is unsentimental—indeed, one of the prevailing criticisms of him is that he’s too cold, his novels overly designed, his language detached. (Some of the worst writing on Ishiguro ascribes this to his being Japanese, overlooking that he’s lived in England since he was a small child.) In most hands, this business of the mother-figure who sacrifices all for a child would be mawkish. Here it barely seems like metaphor. Every parent has at times felt like an automaton. Every parent has pleaded with some deity for the safety of their child. Every parent is aware of their own, inevitable obsolescence. And no child can offer more than Josie’s glib goodbye, though perhaps Ishiguro wants to; the book is dedicated to his mother.
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It explores many of the subjects that fill our news feeds, from artificial intelligence to meritocracy. Yet its real political power lies not in these topical references but in its quietly eviscerating treatment of love. Through Klara, Josie, and Chrissie, Ishiguro shows how care is often
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intertwined with exploitation, how love is often grounded in selfishness ... this book focuses on those we exploit primarily for emotional labor and care work—a timely commentary during a pandemic in which the essential workers who care for us are too often treated as disposable ... If Never Let Me Go demonstrates how easily we can exploit those we never have to see, Klara and the Sun shows how easily we can exploit even those we claim to love ... a story as much about our own world as about any imagined future, and it reminds us that violence and dehumanization can also come wrapped in the guise of love.
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... the real power of this novel: Ishiguro’s ability to embrace a whole web of moral concerns about how we navigate technological advancements, environmental degradation and economic challenges even while dealing with the unalterable fact that we still die.... tales of sensitive robots determined
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to help us survive our self-destructive impulses are not unknown in the canon of science fiction. But Ishiguro brings to this poignant subgenre a uniquely elegant style and flawless control of dramatic pacing. In his telling, Klara’s self-abnegation feels both ennobling and tragic.
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Critics often note Ishiguro’s use of dramatic irony, which allows readers to know more than his characters do. And it can seem as if his narrators fail to grasp the enormity of the injustices whose details they so meticulously describe. But I don’t believe that his characters suffer from
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limited consciousness. I think they have dignity. Confronted by a complete indifference to their humanity, they choose stoicism over complaint. We think we grieve for them more than they grieve for themselves, but more heartbreaking is the possibility that they’re not sure we differ enough from their overlords to understand their true sorrow. And maybe we don’t, and maybe we can’t. Maybe that’s the real irony, the way Ishiguro sticks in the shiv.... In Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro leaves us suspended over a rift in the presumptive order of things. Whose consciousness is limited, ours or a machine’s? Whose love is more true? If we ever do give robots the power to feel the beauty and anguish of the world we bring them into, will they murder us for it or lead us toward the light?
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Ishiguro, like Nabokov, enjoys using unreliable narrators to filter—which is to say, estrange—the world unreliably...Often, these narrators function like people who have emigrated from the known world, like the clone Kathy, in “Never Let Me Go,” or like immigrants to their own world....
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These speakers are often concealing or repressing something unpleasant...They misread the world because reading it “properly” is too painful. The blandness of Ishiguro’s narrators is the very rhetoric of their estrangement; blandness is the evasive truce that repression has made with the truth. And we, in turn, are first lulled, then provoked, and then estranged by this sedated equilibrium.... What sense can an artificial intelligence make of death? For that matter, what sense can human intelligence make of death? ... “Klara and the Sun” continues this meditation, powerfully and affectingly. Ishiguro uses his inhuman, all too human narrators to gaze upon the theological heft of our lives, and to call its bluff.
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For four decades now, Ishiguro has written eloquently about the balancing act of remembering without succumbing irrevocably to the past. Memory and the accounting of memory, its burdens and its reconciliation, have been his subjects. With “Klara and the Sun,” I began to see how he has mastered
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the adjacent theme of obsolescence. What is it like to inhabit a world whose mores and ideas have passed you by? What happens to the people who must be cast aside in order for others to move forward? ... Klara’s machine-ness never recedes. Unlike most of Ishiguro’s first-person narrators, however, she seems incapable of deluding herself. Her technological essence presents some childlike limitations of expression, but are they more pronounced than the limits born of the human desire to repress, or wallow, or come across better than we are? ... Still, when Klara says, “I have my memories to go through and place in the right order,” it strikes the quintessential Ishiguro chord. So what if a machine says it? There’s no narrative instinct more essential, or more human.
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... as for “Never Let Me Go,” it is probably, thus far, the most important English-language novel of the new century. It’s also the Ishiguro novel closest in theme and tone to “Klara and the Sun.” Both are about what we can hold on to as “human” once the idea of being a human begins
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to change; both are also, like all his work, about the simpler question of what being human ever was to begin with.... of course, the point of feeling we can guess about his designs isn’t that we understand Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s that he understands us. There is something special about Josie, Klara realizes. “But it wasn’t inside Josie,” she reflects. “It was inside those who loved her.”
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Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.... Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s
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clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing. A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.
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As with Ishiguro’s other works, the rich inner reflections of his protagonists offer big takeaways, and Klara’s quiet but astute observations of human nature land with profound gravity (“There was something very special, but it wasn’t inside Josie. It was inside those who loved her,”
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Klara says). This dazzling genre-bending work is a delight.
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LibraryThing.com
Great job author, I really like your writing style. I suggest you join NovelStar’s writing competition, you might be their next big star.

User reviews

LibraryThing member write-review
Thoughtful and Moving on Humanness

There comes a point in Kazuo Ishiguro’s terrific new novel when Klara the AI AF (artificial friend) reveals just how sophisticated she has become when she explains what makes humans human. It is their capacity to be loved and to return love. But Klara seems not
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to recognize that though artificial, she herself is in important ways more human than the humans who created her and benefit from her service. Given all that has preceded, and the nature of her circumstances at the moment, it moves readers with its combination of poignancy and sadness. Of all the characters in Klara and the Sun, she may be the most intrinsically human.

We first meet Klara in a store that sells various items, among them Artificial Friends for affluent children who live isolated lives to the point where they have to engage in group social training as teens. Klara possesses both curiosity and keen powers of observation. She and another AFs with whom the store manager pairs her exchange comments on what they see out the store window, but by far Klara sees and concludes much more than the others. One day, a girl with a limp comes up to the window. Her name is Josie and she and Klara establish a connection. Eventually, after some time, Josie and her mother return and purchase her.

Josie suffers from a serious illness, the nature of which we learn indirectly in characteristically nuanced writing that runs through much of Ishiguro’s work and which makes him such a pleasure to read. This subtleness suffuses the novel, slowly painting a sort of impressionistic picture of a world in transition and turmoil because of advanced technology that produced the likes of Klara. And this technologizing extends to the children of the well-off, and accounts for Josie’s illness and the death of an older sister.

While Klara’s role is to serve as a companion to Josie, as other AFs do to their owners, she takes it upon herself to understand everything she can about Josie. This, the mother strongly encourages to the point of mimicking Josie, for as readers learn there is a plan afoot. The mother has commissioned what Josie and readers are led to believe is a portrait of her. But this turns out to be more than a mere commemorative of the girl should she not survive her illness. Klara takes it upon herself to help Josie in every way she can, including sacrificing her own sentience. Before it comes to that, though, Klara implores the Sun that supplies her power and that she regards as the giver and healer of life to save Josie, and makes a sacrifice she believes will spur the Sun to intervene.

Readers will enjoy Klara and the Sun more if they don’t approach it as a strictly sci-fi-dystopian future novel, but as an exploration of the essential qualities of humanness. That Ishiguro doesn’t spell everything out but rather provides enough for forming one’s own picture of Klara’s and Josie’s world is an added plus for imaginative readers.
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LibraryThing member kristykay22
This is a page turner of a literary sci-fi novel that never quite reaches the depths of Ishiguro's earlier work. In a near future of a U.S. where parents can decide to genetically enhance their children, professional workers are outsourced by robots, and Artificial Friends can be purchased to make
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things a little less lonely, Klara (our narrator) is an exceptionally observant AF who immediately forms a bond with a junior high aged girl, Josie, as she stands on display in the window of her store. After a few false starts, Klara goes home with Josie and her mother to start her life of companionship and protection of her child. The problem is, however, that Josie is sick and getting sicker, and only Klara's hope and faith (maybe!) can save her.

Both the charm and the weakness of the book come from us being tied to Klara as our window into the story. Klara is hyper intelligent and extremely observant, but also a machine that approaches every new situation with an unusual naïve wisdom. Her way of categorizing people and places and the glitches in her perception as the novel moves forward are entertaining and evocative. However, being stuck in a robot and not getting to enter the minds of the complicated and flawed humans in Klara's world keeps us stuck behind a melancholy wall of programming. The glimpses we do get into family relationships and futuristic world building are tantalizing but ultimately unfulfilling. And because our view comes through Klara, the big moral questions of the novel end up being given pretty simple and cliched answers. Definitely worth reading and not bad, but a little disappointing given the high bar Ishiguro set with his earlier novels.
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LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
Ishiguro has been hit or miss for me, although Remains of the Day is an all time favorite memorable book of mine, so I usually like to give his books a chance, unless it sounds like something I really wouldn't like. (Thinking of The Buried Giant.) I enjoyed this one, set in the near future and
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narrated by Klara, an artificial friend (AF), or robot.

When the novel opens Klara and other AFs are in the AF store, each hoping to be chosen to be a friend to a special child. (For some reason AFs are for kids in their teens rather than younger children). Klara hopes to be given a place in the front of the store, perhaps even in the window, so as to be more likely to be noticed and chosen. And of course, AFs take their nourishment from the sun, and there is more sun in the front of the store. The sun is a kind of mythical God figure to the AFs.

Finally, Klara is chosen by Josie and brought home with Josie to be her friend. We observe life with Josie and her family and friends through Klara's eyes, and we realize that all is not well. In the near future world Ishiguro has created many children are "uplifted" (genetically altered) to amplify their intelligence, and in Josie's case, it has created significant health issues as a side effect. I never found it sufficiently clear why parents would choose to uplift their child when there were known life-threatening possible side-effects. In any event, Klara wants to do what she can to help Josie, perhaps even involving the sun.

Beyond being an interesting look at a possible future world, the novel explores through the observations of Klara what it means to be human. As with many other reviewers, I loved Klara's narrative voice.

Recommended.
3 1/2 stars
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LibraryThing member sleahey
Is it science fiction? A religious allegory? A coming of age story? Of course, Ishiguro has made it seamlessly all three. Klara is an AF, Artificial Friend, capable of astute perceptions and observations of the humans and AFs around her. Solar powered, she looks to the Sun, not only for power, but
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also for guidance. Klara's voice comes across as robotically stilted at the same time that she conveys emotions, which adds to the power of her narration. When her human, a young teenage girl, is at death's door (apparently because of genetic engineering) Klara makes a Faustian deal with the Sun, and a miracle seems to take place. This is a bitter-sweet portrait of a not-too-distant future when artificial intelligences are an integral part of our lives.
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LibraryThing member fromthecomfychair
Oh my! Such beautiful language and simplicity of storytelling combined in such a profound tale. Sometime in the future, robots in the form of AF (Artificial Friends) are available to purchase. The narrator of this tale is one such AF, Klara. When the story opens, she is in the store with the other
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AFs and waiting to be purchased. Eventually, she is purchased as a companion for a 14 year old girl, Josie, who lives with her divorced Mother somewhere in the countryside.

Josie is a sickly child, and for much of the story, we are not sure she will survive to adulthood. She is also a privileged child who has been "lifted" and will have a bright future if she survives. The Mother had another child, Sal, who did not survive, and she is very anxious about Josie. She purchases Klara, the AF, as a companion, but she has a second purpose in mind which is revealed later in the story.

Josie and her Mother and Melania Housekeeper live in a rural setting. The only neighbor they have lives across the field in a dilapidated house. Rick lives here with his mother Chrissie. Rick and Josie have grown up together and are close friends. Rick, however, does not have Josie's genetic advantages and his future potential is in question.

Klara is an unusually empathetic AF. She is the soul of caring and kindness. She sees the world in planes and has a childlike belief in the Sun as God. And why wouldn't she--she is, after all, solar-powered. This belief drives her understanding of her world, and for me, is one of the mystifying aspects of the novel. If she is an AI being, why does she not understand the true meaning of the sun? Why does she think the Sun goes to sleep at night and not understand how the Earth revolves around the Sun? I guess she is not programmed to understand this, but it troubled my very literal brain.

The questions about the limits of AI are alluded to but not central to the novel. What is important is the ability of the Klara to care about Josie and function to be the best companion Josie can have. She is willing to make sacrifices for Josie that might affect her own functioning and this willingness to sacrifice is the soul of the novel, what made me feel that the novel would stay with me for a long time.
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LibraryThing member aadyer
An interesting foray into artificial intelligence in the near future. This essentially benign entity interacts with a family that potentially has an enormous amount of struggle within it. It looks at human emotion, and in particular the connectedness between our selves, our relationships, and our
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families. This you would imagine, would be fertile territory for a writer of issued euros talent. However there are several areas where he seems to misfire. At times it appears that he wishes to make some of this humorous. However, this seems to fall flat as well. The tone of the book is one of isolation and introspection. In the past, Kazuo Ishiguro, has manage these themes extremely well. This time, despite some adroit passages, it doesn’t seem to have the same impact.
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LibraryThing member sheamusburns
perhaps the english version is a translation, or something along those lines, but the dialogue feels rigid, at times forces, and don't really help with the character development. Josie and Rick don't sound like 14 year old kids -- the language that comes out of their mouths feels much like what's
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coming out of the Mother and other adults' mouths.

A gaping hole in the plot that I can't wrap my mind around is Klara's unwillingness to discuss her thoughts about the sun and her plea for him to heal josie. Everyone just seems to go along with klara as if she knows better than they do, but it's frustrating because these are the same skeptical and cunning humans who are far from blissfully ignorant.
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LibraryThing member Clara53
A bit of a disappointment. I say this even taking into account that the narrator is a robot, an AF (artificial friend) - even then the main idea of controversy of pro and con in the field of artificial intelligence seemed understated. The dialogues between humans are very rudimentary (and that was
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not due to Klara, the robot, interpretation, because they are presented as they are).

There seemed to be a reach for something - like humans having "heart/feelings", something that robots cannot have, but even that seemed rather quaint. Up to the half of the book, I still was not sure where it was going. And then, the whole idea of the Sun - too ambiguous.

On the positive side, I found the controversy of "lifted kids", i.e. kids that benefited from genetic editing, compared to those who remained as they were, a topic worth discussion. But all in all, this coming from a Nobel Prize winner - I somehow feel bad I wasn't taken by this novel. I need to go back and read Ishiguro's earlier works.
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
Klara and the Sun: A Novel, Kazuo Ishiguro, author; Sura Siu, narrator
This is a novel about a dystopian world. It is a world in which technology has advanced to the point that children can be genetically engineered to succeed if they qualify for the program. This is a world in which very lifelike
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androids coexist in human families. Although it may even seem like a young adult novel, at first blush, the messages within are more profound when explored. This is a story about one android, Klara, and also Josie, the child that has chosen her to be her Artificial Friend, her AF. So, suspend disbelief, relax and enjoy the show.
Josie has been “lifted up”. She has had genetic altering which enrolled her in a program to guarantee her future success. However, her only neighbor, and her best friend, is Rick. He has not been “lifted up”. His mom chose not to have him entered into the program because of the side effects which could be dangerous. Will Josie and Rick fulfill their dreams of a future together? Josie invites Rick to a monthly socialization meeting. He does not want to go, but he cares so much for Josie that he acquiesces. He is rejected rudely by some in the group. Klara also attends and is threatened with abuse by some of the boys. A scene ensues, and Josie joins the group and abandons Rick and Klara. She is the hostess and is expected to behave politely toward her guests. Rick showed courage by confronting their cruelty; Josie did not. Klara exhibited great patience and thoughtfulness, as she always did. The genetically engineered children seemed far less considerate. The AF seemed more patient and compassionate than the actual humans in the room who stood by without much objection or ability to stop the abusive behavior as it grew worse. Both Karla and Rick showed more respect for each other than those genetically engineered, supposedly superior, human beings.
Although she is not one of the latest models, Klara does seem to possess unique skills. She is more intuitive and more observant than most AF. Klara, however, is only aware of her immediate world, the world she sees from her window. Klara believes that the sun possesses special powers to nourish all and to heal those who are ill. She witnessed what she believes was the “rebirth” of a beggar and his dog because of the sun’s power. She also witnessed and resents the abuse of the environment by machinery around her storefront. Klara though, is essentially a servant, programmed to be gentle and obedient even though she is also very intuitive and senses what is wrong and right with the world. She must hold her tongue, unless asked for her opinion, even when her analytical skills are very advanced and superior to the humans around her. She is able to understand problems and solve them. Although her advice is often simple and reduced to its most basic elements, her advice works and makes sense. She offers hope to human beings who are able to accept her.
As the AF are improved, however, the newer models also began to possess the faults that humans possess, like elitism. Although the latest models had always been welcomed by those already in the showroom, the latest models, thinking they were unobserved, showed arrogance as they mocked the older models among themselves. Garbage in, garbage out, seems to be the result of some programmers work.
Josie is one of the children that has suffered from the side effects of the “lifting up” experience, and it is feared that she will succumb to them in the end. She is often fatigued and ill. Her mother fearing she will lose her, has devised a plan to keep her. Will it succeed? Will it be necessary? Can an authentic substitute be created? Will it work? Is it ethical? Will she be able to accept her decision? How will this plan affect Josie and Klara’s future and/or Rick and Josie’s future?
Now that Rick is older and facing a bleak future, although he is truly intelligent with the mind of an engineer, his mom has misgivings about her decision not to enroll him in the program. He understands that his inventions have the power to help and to harm, but he believes that decision does not lie with him, but rather with government officials. His mom tries to enlist the favor of an old flame with influence, to get him into a limited program offered only to a select few, which will allow him to receive a higher education, but it doesn’t turn out as she planned it. Her old flame has been angry for many years and is vindictive. Yet this is a man who is supposed to possess the ability to choose the best and brightest for the educational institution he is involved with, which offers those not altered an opportunity for success. Where is his patience and kindness? Why is he superior? Why can’t he forgive a slight from so many years ago? As Klara and Rick observe the goings on, they both have the clearer understanding of what is taking place and have the most honorable and ethical reactions. Perhaps genetic engineering is not the best answer for society or civilization, since there are unintended consequences.
Will the reader have the courage to truly examine the issues raised in this book since they are issues confronting society today? Will technology positively or negatively alter the world. Will there always be people that take advantage of the situation at the expense of others? Will the inherent evil in some find its way into technological advances. Will only some be allowed to speak? Will only some be allowed to advance? Who will choose those “special” people. What qualifies them for that job?
In the end, will it be Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest or survival of the most arrogant and elite succeed? Will it be a combination of both ideas that succeeds? Is this the world we are inviting? Will it spin out of control? Is our identity politics and cancel culture permitting only one thought process which is already out of control? There are some parents today who wish to choose certain genetic traits for their children, some which are frivolous like the color of their eyes. Is genetic alteration ethical? Is cloning? Should some groups have a greater advantage over another? Should one’s influence effect someone’s chances of success or should the playing field be equal? Is that simply a utopian goal that is unattainable? Are machines contaminating our environment as they supposedly improve it? Should we destroy those machines? Should we try to develop more environmentally safe machinery? Should drones be employed? Are they an invasion of our privacy? Who should decide that, individuals or the government?
Another sub theme is the class structure of society. AF are an underclass and is their abuse acceptable? In addition, are they not another form of slave? They exist only to serve and receive no reward for their service and are threatened with dismantling and abandoned without a second thought. They are often abused physically, and often emotionally abused with insults. These AF have feelings, although Karla’s emotions seem far more developed than most. She always takes the road of optimism, even in the end. She never grows resentful and always maintains her equanimity.
As the androids become more sophisticated, some in society begin to fear them. In some ways they grow superior to human beings. Are the negative aspects of the androids a result of the input from their programmer’s personality? Some are defiant and arrogant. As protest groups develop, one wonders who will win, those that prefer less technology or those that prefer more so that life grows easier and easier for some even though it disadvantages others. Protest groups arise and divisiveness grows. Technology can create monsters as well as saviors. Do machines deserve respect? Should machines rule over human judgment? Will fear ultimately alter technological advances as they grow out of control?
All of these questions arose as I read this novel which is why I suggested it might be far more profound than the initial reaction of the reader. Who will have the courage to confront these issues and give them serious consideration?
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LibraryThing member MilksopQuidnunc
As artificial intelligence and computing power becomes more prevalent, we’ll encounter new dynamics & consequences, but also reexamine the depictions from before this period in time since there’s a trove of depictions to sort through. Since AI is such trodden ground, one would imagine if a
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writer wanted to employ it as a narrative mode or a motif, they would be adding a new or different dimension to the canon. Unfortunately, I don’t feel Ishiguro accomplished anything that hasn’t been explored or done better already.

One pet peeve I have in book reviewing is using a grandiose & noble theme as a crutch, especially when you rest your entire bodyweight against it. There are so many reviews (for this book and thousands of others) which commend a book for exploring “what it is to be human.” This is true (or can be true, if you try hard enough) for almost any work of fiction. It feels like “what it is to be human” should be the baseline for anything you’re writing - I don’t even know how you would proceed without that intention in some capacity. It’s something that sounds transcendent & beautiful, but it says next to nothing.

This was my gripe with this book specifically: revolving your novel about AI around love as such, and what makes humans special, is so basic as to be boring. I’m not particularly sure there’s much in this book you can’t find in popular movies like Blade Runner, Her, Ex Machina, or even Pinocchio.

One of the most prominent questions is what differs between man and intelligent robot? At one point, Capaldi, the (freelance?) scientist, tells Klara that humanity’s obstinate idea it’s too complex or unique to be recreated is desperately wrong. Paul, Josie’s father, asks Klara whether she thinks she could recreate & faithfully perform Josie. At that point in the novel, she says yes. Humans may be complex, but at a certain point you’ve reached the end of one’s idiosyncrasies and ambitions as to replicate them perfectly. This is all to build up to the conclusion that Klara could not replicate Josie, because to do so perfectly would require replicating the Josie that exists inside the heads of those who love her, which is impossible. I’m not a heartless ghoul: I like this conclusion, and it is a theme with tremendous weight behind it. I just wish Ishiguro spent more time fleshing out its implications than long sequences of boring, repetitive dialogue.

Working within the realm of what makes humans human is the notion of “lifted” kids. Ishiguro really holds this one close to his chest in a way that doesn’t have much payoff when you finally figure out what it means. It’s especially not very rewarding when you say to yourself, “Isn’t that just the plot of Gattaca?” Yes, it is just the plot of Gattaca, and it doesn’t explore much beyond it. I think it’s a shrewd science fiction element to include alongside AI, because there’s connective tissue between those two concepts. If these kids are basically little GMOs, how human are they? At what point do you fiddle enough with someone’s genetics as to be creating a human being? Is Rick more human because he isn’t lifted, or is that a false distinction because they’re all human? Unfortunately, I don’t think you find this in Klara and the Sun, just bits & pieces for you to explore on your own time because we have trite dialogue to get to.

A little side note on Rick: it feels very strange to me to gloss over the fact this kid is carelessly creating robotic birds for the purpose of surveillance. He acknowledges they are perfectly suited for surveillance, but that’s not his dog in this race as a “scientist.” His job is to create and let legislators figure the rest out. For someone who’s regarded as a very sensitive and thoughtful character in the scheme of this book, being so grossly immoral & apathetic feels cartoonishly out of character for Rick. Assuming this is set on the canonical Earth, I don’t know how you can say something like that after Oppenheimer. If you are going to have your character say something like that, I wish you would elaborate a little more. This doesn’t need to be a novel of ideas, because those can be boring & navel-gazing, but shunting political implications to make room for saccharine conversations about love does this book a huge disservice.

Despite all this, Ishiguro’s writing is impressive at times, not for floral poetics but for what it shows without explaining. I liked gleaning how an AF observes and interprets input based just on Klara’s internal monologue. Her “slow fade,” which is like a computer or phone’s gradual degradation, is like dementia diluted with technological language. Her memories are objective (as in, actual data stored in hard drives), but subjective in how they’re manipulated by her aging. Her memories overlap one another because of shared associations (e.g., loneliness). Her memory is thematic, which allows her the “human” ability to compare and combine totally disparate memories in her mind. She spends the end of her life—I’m pretty sure she’s in a municipal dump—sorting her memories, which is certainly human in nature. Klara also learns so much simply from observing without interfering. Ishiguro implies she interprets emotions by how the human face moves within her grid of vision. I imagine AFs see the world through a camera grid, though much more sophisticated, or maybe even as an insect with compound eyes. If you were illustrating a human face on gridded paper, you’d have to consider the subtlety of their expression than we do day-to-day. Why is one eye slightly pinched? Why are the nostrils mildly flared? What does it suggest that a corner of her mouth is more tense than the other? Klara observes all these details as static images and composites them to interpret what that person’s feeling. Reading “human” behaviors via programmatic language makes for an interesting angle from which to consider a human mind, and how it processes its experience.

I only wish Ishiguro didn’t eschew politics & ideology to focus on “human” “truths,” because politics & ideology is about as human as you can get. I wonder whether there’s something to the moment we’re living through now that encouraged him to avoid “politicizing” his novel, since that can be overwrought or on the nose. I’m happy to learn about the world of this novel from the shadows of its events, but Ishiguro’s Sun was so bright as to obscure what makes this story possible in the first place, so all we see is shadows of a future with dire implications.
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LibraryThing member beckyhaase
KLARA AND THE SUN by Kazuo Ishiguro
Oh MY! I still am not quite sure what exactly was going on in this interesting Sci-fi (I think) novel that is ultimately unsatisfying. Yes, we know what happens to Klara, but we are still unsure exactly what happens with or to anyone else. Is josie happy? Is Rick
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happy? Is Mother happy? What happened to Melania Housekeeper? What happened to Rosa? What is “lifting? Why was Josie sick? Why was the Father “substituted” and what does that mean? So many questions. So few answers.
This was just a very weird book. It kept my interest but now that I have finished the book I just don’t care about any of the characters (because they weren’t real!).
3 0f 5 stars for a frustrating read
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LibraryThing member quondame
The story of a smart but simple AI artificial friend Klara and the family Klara is acquired by. Klara is a careful and caring observer of her world which is very narrow and centered around a profound self generated belief and faith in the power and attention of the Sun. As limited as Klara's window
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into human society is the understanding of AIs by humans is shown to be narrower.
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LibraryThing member SamSattler
Despite all the international acclaim garnered by Kazuo Ishiguro in recent years, Klara and the Sun is my first experience with one of his novels. The immediate buzz about this one was so great that I knew I had to read it, but ended up waiting for five months for my name finally to reach the top
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of my library’s “hold list.” Thankfully, Klara and the Sun was worth the wait, and now I can look forward to reading more from Ishiguro, including his backlist.

Klara and the Sun takes place at some time in the relatively near future in an unnamed country in which people seem to have splintered into communities that share certain characteristics and status levels. Those wanting to move to a new city or state first have to find a community willing to invite them there. This is definitely a country of haves and have-nots, and the impression is that rapidly advancing technology, especially the use of artificial intelligence, has a lot to do with the economic split.

The novel’s narrator, in fact, is a lifelike robot called Klara, who introduces herself this way to the reader in the novel’s first few sentences:

When we were new, Rosa and I were mid-store, on the magazine table side, and could see through more than half of the window. So we were able to watch the outside — the office workers hurrying by, the taxis, the runners, the tourists, Beggar Man and his dog, the lower part of the RPO Building. Once we were more settled, Manager allowed us to walk up to the front until we were right behind the window display, and then we could see how tall the RPO Building was.

Klara and Rosa, two robotic Artificial Friends (known to the world as AFs) themselves become friends while they spend all those hours waiting to be taken home by the one teenager who will choose them off the showroom floor. They are friends, but they are not really much alike. Klara, in fact, is everything that Rosa is not: curious, thoughtful, empathetic, and observant. And she will turn out to be the perfect match for the teen girl who finally returns to purchase Klara just when the AF is beginning to think it will never happen for her.

Klara’s new human friend, Josie, is not having an easy time of it at home, but she could not have made a better choice for an AF than Klara because Klara is completely dedicated to her new role as Josie’s protector and advocate. Klara, though, must work within the limitations of her role and she sometimes, especially in the early days, allows herself to be manipulated by others who may not have Josie’s best interests in mind. Klara, though, never stops believing that better days are ahead for Josie and her family — and she never stops working to make that happen.

Bottom Line: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara is one of the most unforgettable characters I’ve encountered in a while. Some may argue that Klara’s selflessness and dedication to her friend Josie is only to be expected; Klara is, after all, only a well designed machine; that she had no choice but to do the things for Josie and her parents that she does. But even Manager, the woman Klara refers to in the novel’s opening paragraph, believes that Klara is special, that she is, in effect, almost human. One of the more intriguing aspects of Klara and the Sun is watching Klara figure out things for herself as she experiences more and more of the world. This is one novel I will not be forgetting…especially that ending.
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LibraryThing member mbmackay
This is a precisely written book. Every word is just so. If Ishiguro was an artist, he could never be an impressionist. The end result is pleasing, but I felt like I was being led, precisely, by the author every step of the way.
The book is vaguely scifi - with an Artificial Friend as the lead
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character, but it is more a sketch of what a future world might be like (hint: ugly). The 'science' component of the scifi is not an important player.
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LibraryThing member streamsong
Klara is an AF or Artificial Friend. Her kind is especially useful to the genetically modified kids who have more brain power than average. They no longer attend regular schools and so lack social stimulation.

Klara longs to be picked as she stands in the shop window, even as newer, more recent
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models come out and Klara becomes slightly obsolete even before being sold.

But at last she has her human and her family and she vows to do her very best by them.

It’s a precarious situation as not all children undergoing the genetic enhancement process survive. Klara’s new person, Josie, is having a very hard time and having to spend more and more time ill in bed. Josie’s older sister didn’t survive the process.

Klara, with her solar powered batteries, has been taught to head for the sun.

It’s an interesting look at what we define as humanity, friendship, loyalty and even old age.

I do have a quibble. It seems to me that a robot friend would need to have at least a basic understanding about the science of the earth, especially being friends to kids with higher than usual intelligence and advanced tutoring.
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LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
This is the 2nd novel by Ishiguro that I have read. I understand his reputation but like "The Buried Giant" this book was a 3 star. Good but forgettable. The story involves an AF(artificial friend) robot who is the narrator of the novel. Ishiguro does a good job creating the future world that this
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is set in. He hints at much more in terms of society etc. There are hints of AI taking over and he shows discrimination based of whether you are lifted(genetic engineered intelligence) but that knowledge is given to us in dribs and drabs. The story surrounds Klara(the AF) and her connection to Josie a 14 year old who has chosen her. The story dances around so many issues that it is hard to get a clear understanding as to what is going on. The writing style in terms of looking at the world through an android/robot was interesting at first but got old quickly. If you have never read Ishiguro who wrote "Remains of the Day" then you might want to read this but for me this is a case of a Nobel Prize winner getting great reviews based on his reputation. Not sure if this was a first novel by an unknown whether it would have been rated so highly.
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LibraryThing member niaomiya
Oh, wow, I loved this book! It was so different from anything else I'd ever read. It is hauntingly beautiful, a fascinating peek into a sci-fi future and into the heart of what it means to be human.

Klara is an Artificial Friend (AF) who is an exceptionally good observer. From her spot in the store,
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she watches and absorbs everything that goes on around her, both in the store and outside on the street, hoping -- like all the AFs do -- to be chosen by a human to be his/her companion. When Klara does finally get chosen, she learns what it means not only to be a good AF, but also what it means to be truly human -- to have the capacity to love and sacrifice for that love. Being an AF who continually learns about human nature, Klara is at once innocently naïve and yet insightful and astute in her observations. She is quite an engaging narrator. The reader may think s/he knows a lot more than Klara, going along for the ride with Klara but all the while knowingly thinking that Klara has much to learn about the world and humans. I was guilty of this as I read the book, thinking I was constantly many steps ahead of Klara, and then when major plot points were revealed, I was taken aback and even shocked -- I really didn't see it coming, precisely because I was smugly reading along, thinking I knew everything already.

The book's ending is touchingly, beautifully poignant and left me in tears with my heart full. I am so looking forward to what literary treat author Kazuo Ishiguro will grace us with next.
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LibraryThing member tibobi
The Short of It:

Love, loneliness and loyalty are front and center in this story about friendship.

The Rest of It:

Klara spends her days at the store, rotating positions with others. Some days she is in the shop window and able to watch the busy people rushing past the shop, interacting with others
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and living their lives. Other days, she is moved to the back of the store. On these days, her only view is that of others in the store and she can’t help but yearn for more hours in the window. Hours where she can feel the sun’s warmth and personally experience its rejuvenating effect.

Klara is an AF, an Artificial Friend. Although there are newer models with more advanced features than what she can offer, Klara is spotted by Josie, a young girl and instantly, Josie is sure that Klara is the AF for her, but the two do not meet at that moment. The mother needs more convincing and so Klara, although hopeful to find a new home, is moved to the back of the store again.

Months pass and Klara has all but given up hope, but then there she is, Josie. Klara’s heart is bursting at the sight of her but she can’t help but notice that Josie doesn’t look well. So as Klara is taken to Josie’s home, she quickly realizes that Josie is a special girl and that not only will she be Josie’s best friend, she will also be the one to notice her rapid decline in health and be the one to do something about it.

What a story. It’s a little weird and sad and somehow manages to hit on all the things we are feeling now. Disappointment, loneliness, isolation, hope. What does it mean to be a friend to someone? How can you love a person when you are in fact a machine? What happens when your purpose conflicts with your heart?

You might think that it will be difficult to feel much while reading this story about what is essentially a robot but think twice. Remember that episode of the Twilight Zone, Sing the Body Electric? Bradbury wrote the script and it later became a story with the same name. Anyway, I felt all the emotions while watching that episode and I felt the same way here. Ishiguro presents an AF who is almost too human and I loved her. I loved her gentle observations and her willingness to sacrifice herself when needed. Truthfully, I am a little sad now as I just turned the last page not long ago. This story will sit with me for a long while.

If you are wondering about the title, it’s all explained in the story and probably represents many things but I will keep my thoughts to myself so that you can consider the meaning yourself.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter.
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LibraryThing member JRlibrary
I know this book was highly anticipated but I’m just not feeling the love so I’m going to pass it along to friends who might like it more than me. I think I’m not a sophisticated enough reader to appreciate it.
LibraryThing member brangwinn
Nobel laureate Ishiguro takes on the future as he explores artificial intelligence. Klara is an AF (artificial friend). Klara is the latest model and she has excellent empathic skills. Chosen to be the AF for 14-year-old Josie. Josie is very ill. Her older sister died, and her mother is desperate
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to save Josie. Friends and family take different approaches to saving Josie, but it’s Klara who makes a deal with the Sun to save Josie. I’d call this a dystopian fable about the human heart, which makes “each of us special and individual” or does it?
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LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Ishiguro writes a sci-fi novel set in the near future that makes us think about what it is that makes us human. If our machines designed with Artificial Intelligence (AI) are more empathic and "human" than we are, then what makes us better/superior etc.? Since the narrator is an AI, we are given
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insight into the moral dilemmas...[in progress]
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LibraryThing member Estramir
For me, the most remarkable thing about this book is the narrator's acute observations. Having a non-human tell the story is a wonderful way of letting the reader see the world through fresh eyes.The writing is typically understated, and there is an underlying feeling of menace in Klara's world.
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Make no mistake, this story is about now, or some time very soon. It is also a very beautiful story, with an emphasis on the visual world, I'd be surprised if someone doesn't use it for a film.
It's a pity there is such a long time between Ishiguru's, but it's always well worth the wait.
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LibraryThing member browner56
Human beings have always held the conceit that each of us is uniquely special. Further, we have also assumed as a matter of fact that we are fully in control of the technology we have created to assist us in our daily tasks. But are either of those beliefs really true? Indeed, what is it exactly
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that makes any of us truly distinctive: our hearts, our minds, our souls? And, with advances in artificial intelligence technology, how certain are we that those traits we believe to be exclusively human are actually irreproducible? These are the essential questions that form the thematic foundation of Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro’s affecting meditation on just what it is that allows us to be us.

The story is set in the very near future and is told in the first person (if “person” is the right word here) by Klara, an Artificial Friend, or AF, designed to provide support and companionship to families in need of such assistance. Klara is acquired by the divorced mother of Josie, a teenaged girl who is suffering from an undisclosed chronic illness. Although she is not the newest AF model, Klara is remarkably observant and empathetic to her hosts and she soon becomes one of Josie’s most trusted and loyal companions. Only when the mother’s true intention for securing Klara’s services is revealed does the full scope of her AF powers become apparent, which moves the tale toward its inevitable and rending conclusion.

Part of the great joy in reading any Ishiguro novel is just how masterful he is at divulging the details of the plot in such a gradual and understated way. Of course, one the reasons he is able to achieve that effect is his employment of unreliable narrators (the butler Stevens in The Remains of the Day, Masuji Ono in An Artist of the Floating World, Kathy H. in Never Let Me Go), who, despite good intentions, are possessed of a naivety or limited vision that do not allow them to see fully the world around them. Klara is no different in that respect—but for very different reasons, of course—and her own misconceptions about how things work in the real world drive much of the dramatic tension in the story.

This was a great book that was highly satisfying to read from start to finish. Although it might fall just short of the best work in the author’s considerable catalog--The Remains of the Day is about as good as storytelling gets--it was nonetheless a compelling piece of speculative fiction that can be enjoyed on many levels. In Klara, Ishiguro has brought life another of his subtly drawn and brilliantly conceived protagonists, which is all the more impressive given the very nature of her creation. Klara and the Sun is a story that I am likely to be thinking about for a long time to come and it is certainly one that I can recommend without hesitation.
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LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
I knew I wanted to carve out a time when I could immerse myself in this book for a few hours to get started. Ishiguro has long been one of my favorite authors, and I'd been looking forward to this one for months. What I didn't expect was to be so enraptured, I'd read the book from beginning to end
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in one day, with only one break for dinner. It's very possible that one of the pages toward the beginning has a drop of coffee on it, and one of the pages toward the end has a drop of wine, with some of the pages in between having drops of tears. And here, more than a week later, it's still sitting at my desk and waiting for a review, swirling in my brain--because, for a somewhat simple story if you only look to the blurb or summary, it is so utterly weighted with meaning that I struggle to put words to it.

Told from the perspective of an Artificial Friend, Klara, the book is layered with meaning in the best of ways. As with some of Ishiguro's other works, Klara and the Sun tackles the biggest of questions with such nuance that they might almost be missed--coming of age, religion, progress and technology, and, of course, revolution and love. What's brilliant here, though, is that none of these conversations are at the forefront. At the forefront, of primary importance, is the story of a single Artificial Friend named Klara, and what she thinks of the world.

I don't think there's any way to describe this book in a way that will do it justice, but that's the power of Ishiguro's writing. The subtlety defies summary, and the beauty of his story-telling is itself something to witness. So, I'll finish this review by saying that, yes, you should read this book. You should pick it up for the humor, for the beauty, for the intelligence of it, and for the pure power in the pages.
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LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Klara is an Artificial Friend (AF). She is specially designed for a young teen to help circumvent the loneliness seemingly inherent in human lives whether the young person has been “lifted” (i.e. genetically enhanced) or not. When Josie chooses Klara as her AF, it is a bond that will have
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life-long consequences for both Josie and Klara.

Although Klara is, perhaps, uniquely observant amongst her model of AF, she has limitations. For example, she has a curiously worked out metaphysics skewed by the fact that she is dependant on solar energy — The Sun. It might be fair to say that she, effectively, worships The Sun, and she believes that The Sun has healing powers far beyond the mere electrical charge she receives. So when Klara learns of Josie’s debilitating illness, she quite naturally turns to The Sun as the obvious source for Josie’s rehabilitation. But it’s not easy pleading with The Sun and consequences ensue.

As ever with an Ishiguro novel, there is no simple encapsulation that captures all that is in play. Along with conflicts between magical thinking and so-called rationalism, there are issues of created class difference, grief and its discontents, the merit of merit, the vagaries of love, how special pleading does and does not work, trans humanism and more. Yet the novel is so intricately plotted that all of Ishiguro’s themes and subjects run across the entire surface, as though, surprise, he had worked it all out in advance. And yet it reads with such beautiful fluidity that you imagine it being created as you read it, sentence by sentence.

As ever, highly recommended.
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Awards

Booker Prize (Longlist — 2021)
Dublin Literary Award (Longlist — 2022)
British Book Award (Shortlist — 2022)
Arthur C. Clarke Award (Shortlist — 2022)
Independent Booksellers' Book Prize (Shortlist — Fiction — 2022)
Prometheus Award (Nominee — Novel — 2022)
BookTube Prize (Octofinalist — Fiction — 2022)
Waterstones Book of the Year (Shortlist — 2021)
Premios Kelvin 505 (Finalist — 2022)
Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year (Science Fiction and Fantasy — 2021)
Notable Books List (Fiction — 2022)
Globe and Mail Top 100 Book (Fiction — 2021)

ISBN

059331817X / 9780593318171
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