Klara and the Sun
Faber, $44.95 hb, 320 pp
Klara is an Artificial Friend (AF), an android companion for spoiled tweens. She’s not the newest model, but what Klara lacks in top-of-the-line joint mobility and showy acrobatics, she makes up for in observational nous; she’s an uncommonly gifted reader of faces and bodies, a finely calibrated empathy machine. Every feeling Klara decodes becomes part of her neural circuitry. The more she sees, the more she’s able to feel.
But to a solar-powered robot, no feeling can compete with pure unadulterated sunlight, that re-energising ultraviolet rush. As Klara poses in a shop window, waiting to be chosen, a mythology is born. The Sun – capital S – becomes holy to her, and she spends her showroom days collecting evidence of His divine and benevolent workings. Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro’s eighth novel, is a parable of idolatry and other lonely human(oid) bargains. When we build a consciousness in our own image, we should not be surprised, Ishiguro argues, when that invented mind invents its own God.