Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Book Review: Never Let Me Go

February's book was Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. When we held the club meeting, the first question anyone asked was "did we think this was a science-fiction novel?"

Umm... no. SF is defined by its exacting depiction of the science, along with the fiction. Ishiguro comprehensively (and irritatingly) fails to address any of the science surrounding his central premise. We never find out exactly what is being "donated" and when, or anything about the cloning process. Indeed he's on record as stating that the novel isn't about clones, it's about human relationships, and how people treat other people. His use of flashback, combined with the personal narrative style, allows Ishiguro to jump from half-revealed truth to half-completed story and back again constantly, which I found distracting in the extreme, and also quite false. This is a novel, after all, not a transcription of one person's random thoughts.

Throughout the novel issues and revelations are hinted at but never really explored. Neither society's apparent treatment of the "students," nor the students' own unrealistic behaviour in the face of the knowledge of what the future holds for them really rings true. What's left is the feeling that the author was interested only in writing a "literary novel" for its own sake, rather than exploring his, admittedly interesting and original, story concept in any way that would provide any satisfaction or resolution. In common with his other work (apparently), his words paint a cold, bleak landscape entirely populated by cold, emotionally repressed characters.

Enjoy the book for its expressive and descriptive language, but don't expect to care for any of the characters - they can't even bring themselves to care about each other - or to gain any insights into any of the many questions it asks.

Finally I must also give more iPublicity to this "satirical" review on the Guardian site which was pointed out to me by another club member. It's not only hilariously accurate if you've read the book but also gives an uncanny flavour of the whole thing if you haven't.

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