Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Country: US & Great Britain (2005)
Genre: science fiction
"My name is Kathy H. I'm 31 years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years." opens Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. The
The first thing that might strike you odd if having just picked up this book is how the narrator introduces themselves - Kathy H. She has no last name? Why is it so secretive? And a 'carer', does she mean 'caregiver'? After reading further only a few sentences she shares that she's pretty good at her job, as most of her donors' recovery times are quite impressive. Donors, huh? So I'm kind of thinking what I think the author means - after all, the only time I've understood the definition of donors is in context of donating blood, plasma, organs?!?
Kathy begins reminiscing about her days at Hailsham - a private boarding school where the arts are promoted. Hailsham sounds like a marvelous place where her and her dear friends go from art classes to music classes to poetry readings. Guardians run the school - are the students orphans? In her early years (elementary?) when she's not in classes, her time is spent with her dear friend Ruth and other girls gossiping about the boys, especially angry Tommy. As they grow up together, naturally, Tommy becomes the boyfriend of Ruth.
Kathy and all of the children know that they are different than those outside the walls of Hailsham, but she doesn't really quite explain how. As they get older, for example, they are told that they cannot get pregnant, and that they must especially pay close attention to whom they sleep with because it is worse for them to get a sexually transmitted disease than anyone else. In fact, they are taught early on how important it is for the whole lot to remain healthy -which is why they get weekly visits to the nurse on campus. Talk of their future and destined career is also spoken of, but quietly. It's as though the students understand their fate while simultaneously don't understand it.
Which is exactly how the reader - especially if one had forgotten why they added this book to their TBR list (like me!!) - feels through out most of the novel. You see Ishiguro is doing everything but using the C-word.
Clones. Cloning. All told from the point of view of, you guessed it, a clone.
This novel is not set in the far future. It's not even set in the near future. No, Ishiguro sets Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy's life "somewhere in the 1990's". Uh, like fifteen years ago? He also weaves their lives and their destiny together so quietly and without fuss, that I felt as though I needed to take a shower and was the horror of England's decision to clone away. I know, look at me becoming so adamant and political over a fictional group of friends. But oh how many times were there that I wanted to say to Kathy, "Run. Go somewhere. Hide. Don't you know what they're going to do to you?"
Ishiguro definitely sets the stage through Kathy's voice to pose philosophical questions - specifically, how can a society continue using clones if the clones have personalities of their own?
At what point do we use science to move ahead and at what point does science end our sense of humanity? How many times have I casually made a joke about cloning one of my best students? Or even my cat! It's a joke when I say it, of course, I take no significance in it. But just suppose that cloning was a natural (as 'natural' as one can get) choice in present day life. The intent, of course, is initially pure, isn't it? Science is what has created cures for illnesses that would have killed us decades ago. Science is what allows us to live longer, healthier. In Never Let Me Go, science has just taken it a step further. Have pancreatic cancer? No worries, we have donors available. Let's not concern ourselves to question whether or not clones have a soul. What is a soul even? Especially when we can save 'real people'.
I admit. This book gave me the heebie jeebies. There were times when it was difficult to read. And it showed; I think it took me at least a week to get through all of the pages. It was trying to wrap my head around what was happening. I know that it wouldn't have worked had Ishiguro written the novel any other way. He was not preachy nor was the topic shoved down the reader's throat. Instead, he whispered it in your mind. Let's not speak about their deaths, rather let's rather speak about their "completion".
If you are not someone who leans toward science fiction (as I'm not), I think that you will be pleased reading Never Let Me Go. It's a dystopian that doesn't read as one. I'm glad that I randomly chose this off of my TBR list. I've not only broadened what I normally would read, but have found a new author that I would like to read more from.