Klara and the Sun
Normally, when I dislike a book as much as I did this one, Klara and the Sun, I simply don’t review it. I felt it necessary to say something here in part because reviews of this book have been so universally stellar, it’d be only natural for those of us who disagree to feel, well, stupid. Indeed, when I went looking for readers who felt as I did, those writing the one- and two-star reviews seemed to be shrugging, saying maybe they just weren’t intellectual enough for this book.
Please. Intellect has nothing to do with it. I’m an intelligent person – yes, intellectual – but I didn’t get this book.
The concept is creative enough. In a not-too-futuristic world in which all schools are virtual, children are so isolated from each other that parents buy AFs (Artificial Friends) to keep them company. The main voice in Klara and the Sun is one such AF, bought by a mom when her daughter, Josie, bonded with it through a store window.
The premise is that through the innocent eyes of this robot we see the pain of childhood, the cruelty of children to each other, the competition for love. Complicating things is the fact of some children being chosen to excel via genetic alteration, being elevated, so to speak. On occasion, the genetic alteration goes tragically wrong. And then there are those not altered, the ones who are left behind.
There are lots of interesting possibilities here – and I do understand that Klara and the Sun was this author’s book to write, not mine. I just felt he did it badly. What may have been in his mind simply did not emerge through the characters. I found the dialogue childish, perhaps understandably in the case of a robot, but wouldn’t as sophisticated a creation as an Artificial Friend be intelligent? Klara was too primitive to be believed.
And Josie and her friends? Their dialogue was nearly as stilted. Okay, so we can blame it on isolation. But then, where is the intelligence in this book? Honestly, it felt like a YA novel poorly done.
I loved the author’s earlier work, Remains of the Day, for which he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. For the reason of that prize alone, I see how this book might have been one of the most anticipated of 2021. But those glowing reviews? Seems to me we have a serious case here of the emperor’s new clothes.