Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Klara and the Sun’: Imagining Technology In a Not So Distant Future

Ishiguro delves into the intertwined world of humanity and technology, exploring the psychological, social, and physical consequences of this increasing connectedness.


Kazuo Ishiguro, writer and Nobel Prize laureate, graces us with a new dimension in his literary universe. His novel ‘Klara and the Sun’ is a dystopian science fiction tale. (Photo Credit: Frankie Fouganthin, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

Kazuo Ishiguro once said, “I like novelists who can create other worlds.” He does exactly that in each of his brilliant novels. His 2021 release, Klara and the Sun is one of the many worlds he has created in his literary universe.

Using the story as his medium, Ishiguro delves into the depths of human connection, identity, and the complex interplay between technology and emotions. The novel is set in a not-so-distant future, where Artificial Friends (AFs) are created to provide companionship to children. This thought-provoking narrative follows Klara, an AF with an extraordinary ability to observe and empathize.

At the heart of the story lies Klara’s unique perspective. Through her innocent and perceptive eyes, readers witness the intricate dynamics of human relationships and the yearning for understanding and companionship. Ishiguro’s writing is elegant and evocative, seamlessly immersing readers in Klara’s consciousness and inviting them to contemplate profound questions about what it truly means to be human.

Klara’s character is beautifully rendered, compelling readers to develop an emotional connection with her. As she navigates her role as a companion, Klara’s observations and interactions with the human characters — particularly with Josie, the girl she is chosen to accompany — reveal the vulnerabilities and complexities of human emotions. Ishiguro skillfully explores the blurred boundaries between artificial intelligence and human consciousness, prompting readers to ponder the nature of identity and the essence of being.

The novel’s futuristic setting is meticulously crafted. Ishiguro seamlessly integrates advanced technology into the familiar aspects of everyday life, creating a world that is both recognizable yet unsettlingly different. He explores the ethical implications of creating sentient beings like AFs, provoking readers to ponder the responsibilities and consequences of our technological advancements.

One of the most striking aspects of Klara and the Sun is Ishiguro’s depiction of love. Through Klara’s unwavering devotion to Josie, the novel reveals the immense power of love and its ability to transcend boundaries. Klara’s unconditional care and her desperate desire to protect Josie propels the story forward, immersing readers in an emotionally charged narrative that explores the depths of human connection.

Ishiguro addresses the complexities of family dynamics and the impact of loss on individuals and their relationships. The characters in Klara and the Sun are beautifully nuanced, each carrying their own burdens and vulnerabilities. Ishiguro’s portrayal of human fragility and resilience is both tender and haunting, reminding readers of the intricate tapestry of human experience – one in an increasingly digital and disconnected world.

Through Klara’s interactions with other AFs, Ishiguro raises profound questions about the nature of consciousness and what it means to possess a soul. Klara’s unrelenting curiosity and her encounters with beings that display a range of emotion — challenging the traditional notion of what it means to be “human.” These philosophical inquiries lend an air of contemplation to the novel, urging readers to reflect on their own understanding of humanity. The blood that flows through our veins and the genes that lie in every single cell of our body are not what make us human. Rather, the unique emotion and individual expression that we hold, is what truly defines our humanity. 

To balance the moments of emotional intimacy scattered throughout the novel, Ishiguro incorporates an overarching theme of morality and purpose. Klara and the Sun compels readers to consider the impact of our choices, the ethical dilemmas of creating AI companions, and the consequences of our actions on those around us. Ishiguro’s ability to harmoniously touch on these weighty themes with a heartfelt narrative is a testament to his literary prowess.

The book’s exploration of AI reflects our own society’s increasing reliance on technology and the integration of it in our daily lives. As we witness Klara’s growth and her quest to understand human emotions, we are compelled to consider the rights of AI entities and the potential consequences of exploiting or mistreating them.

This is especially important with the recent rise of AI. Chat GPT and similar programs have taken the world by storm — with their users growing ever so dependent on them. As AI tools begin to take a larger role in our day to day lives, they start adopting very “human” roles, such as therapy. Creating intelligent beings that closely understand the complexity of emotion has unpredictable ramifications. Ishiguro provides us with a lens into what it looks like when technology seeps its way into the psyche of human society. 

He expands further, expressing the physical consequences of technological development through themes of environmentalism. The Cootings Machine, a name Klara gives to a heavily polluting construction vehicle, is used to represent the negative consequences of industrialization. The smoke released from the machine clouds the sky, blocking out the sun, and drains the world from light, creating a literal disconnect from the natural world. Klara, who feels very passionately about the significance of the sun, destroys the machine. Although it is eventually replaced by a larger one, Klara’s actions serve to show the possibility of symbiotic coexistence between technology and nature.

In the real world, as climate change progressively worsens, and corporate greed runs rampant, the obvious solutions are neglected. New technology grants us the ability to turn away from the status quo and embrace a more green future. But the monetary appeal poses an issue that stands in the way. Ishiguro encourages individuals to weigh their values and reconsider. 

Furthermore, Klara and the Sun highlights the impact of social inequality on individuals and communities. Advanced technology and AFs are a privilege reserved for the elite. This mirrors the disparities we see in our own world, where unequal access to education, healthcare, and technology exists everywhere. Poor children are often described to be gazing through the window, where Klara and other shiny new AFs are displayed like toys. 

The physical glass barrier is symbolic of how class mobility is heavily constrained. In the novel’s universe, technology is a major indicator of wealth. Children in the upper class are lifted, or genetically modified to have “enhanced” qualities. The process itself is expensive, but even after, the cost only grows. Lifted children suffer from several illnesses as a side effect. Josie, who is lifted, is burdened with medical bills her mother struggles to afford. 

Although it is a fictional exploration of the future, Klara and the Sun is grounded in the present reality of the human condition. Ishiguro’s captivating storytelling and his deep understanding of the complexities of love and identity make this novel a truly unforgettable reading experience. Klara’s journey reminds us of the power of empathy, the resilience of the human spirit, and the profound impact that even the most seemingly insignificant connections can have on our lives.

Ishiguro delves into the intertwined world of humanity and technology, exploring the psychological, social, and physical consequences of this increasing connectedness.