Monday, February 15, 2010

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

never let me go
kazuo ishiguro
c. 2005
288 pages
completed 2/14/2010

read for: before i die challenge, 1001 books

*may contain spoilers*

My name is Kathy H.

Set in England in the 1990s, Kathy H is now in her thirties. She has recently been reintroduced to two old friends from her childhood and adolescence, Ruth and Tommy, and she begins to look back over their time together and the way they grew up. On the surface, her memories consist of growing up in an idyllic boarding school, but there's something a little darker underneath, and it takes a while for Kathy and her friends to understand just exactly who they are.

I was extremely surprised I like this book. I went into it preparing myself to give it up after my required 100 pages, but by the end it was bordering on un-putdownable. Perhaps that is because the science fiction element of it was very much in the background. Just by reading the book jacket (and likewise my brief synopsis) you would have no idea this book is about clones. Unless, like me, you went to check the Answerer of all Life's Questions (also known as Wikipedia) to find the correct publication date and glanced at the book description. I don't think the word was mentioned until after the first 100 pages of the books and even then it was used extremely sparingly. Instead, the author created a vocabulary of euphemisms that society used to describe them, as a way for them to gloss over some of the unease. They weren't clones, they were "students" and later on "donors." They didn't die, they "completed." I assumed this was supposed to mean they completed their purpose in life.

I like to read other people's comments on books I've just read and I noticed a lot of the people who didn't like this book complained about the lack of science, and I think maybe those people missed the point of the book. I don't say that to be mean. I often feel like I am missing the point of the books I read. But while it had sci-fi undertones, I think the book was really about life and friendship and humanity. The book didn't go into the development of the clone technology, or how their "donated" organs cured cancer, or anything like that. There was no clone uprising at the end to show that science and technology will one day take over the world. Instead, the book focused on the mundane daily lives of these three people, on their humanity. The important thing to learn about these people isn't how they were created and for what purpose, but to understand them as people. They had hopes and dreams and fears and foibles like any other person, even though they were maybe created in a test tube. The book was not explosive and excitable the way someone might assume a sci-fi clone book would be. Instead, it was quietly melancholy, a bit bleak, and ended not with revolution but with a resigned outlook to a way of life.



Lezlie said...

I loved this book. I really liked that they didn't make the clone issue obvious and let the reader work it out for themselves for the most part. It made it more emotional than if it had been more shoved at the reader.


Veronica said...

Lezlie, I definitely agree. I liked that the cloning was a very small element of the story. Yes, it was a pivotal piece of information, but it wasn't exactly what the book was about.

Diane said...

This book was really different (cloning aspect), but I liked it. Your review was terrific.

Veronica said...

Thanks Diane! I was really not expecting to like it. Big surprise that I did! And you're right, it was really different. Not quite what I expected of a cloning book.

darchildre said...

The book didn't go into the development of the clone technology, or how their "donated" organs cured cancer, or anything like that. There was no clone uprising at the end to show that science and technology will one day take over the world.

I really think that this is the problem with the way sci-fi is popularly perceived in our culture. Most people have this idea that sci-fi is all explosions and fight scenes when really, a lot of sci-fi is for exactly what you talk about in this post: exploring the ways that advances in technology will impact everyday people. It's a shame, because I think there are a lot of people who would enjoy the "how new technology effects people" aspects of sci-fi but are put off by the explosions.

Which is not to say that there isn't sci-fi that's overly heavy on the technobabble and that there isn't sci-fi that's full of explosions and space battles and whatever. But those things are just trappings - they aren't the point of the genre. Sadly, few people outside the genre really see that.

Becky said...

never read a book byt this author but I really really want to!