A first person narrative from an AI built into a robot/android body that has been built as a line of “Artificial Friends” for kids. When Klara begins her story, she’s on display in the a specialty store mostly just trying to get noticed and also get some sun, which she slightly worships as a kind of deity-like presence, but also is her source of energy (as it ours as well). The novel then opens up a little when she meets Josie, a repeat visitor to the store who keeps telling Klara that she will return to purchase her someday, but only if Klara really wants to go with her. When she finally does get to go with Klara, it’s clear that Josie’s life is much more complex and fraught then originally thought, and that her parents might have other intentions for Klara.
I spent some of the early part of this novel trying to figure out what I felt about the ways in which the narrative voice purposely limits our understanding of this story and the world it inhabits. Most of the references to what’s different about this future Earth from are own are pretty oblique, which makes sense, as I also don’t give exposition about the world in my day to day thinking and speaking about it for the most part. One of the strongest parts of many of Ishiguro’s novel is how much a narrator choses to reveal about their life and story, and in some cases, how much they are able to reveal. So while I think that that element of this novel is strong and consistent with the rest of his work, too much of this novel works at almost obvious levels at times — the intentions of adults, and almost embarrassingly weak moments — the mention of politics outside of the main narrative. There’s a kind of Handmaid’s Tale aspect to this world and story that work and make a lot of sense, but the moments in the Handmaid’s Tale where the wider world is revealed through Offred’s memories, are repressed in the contemporary events through the pain and conditioning of her situation. Here, the understanding of the wider world feel somewhat forced on the narrative by characters talking through exposition.