This book was recommended by some participants in the MOOC on Fantasy and Science Fiction that I did this spring on Coursera. It is not science fiction in a “hard” sense, at least not of the improbable technological kind, but it does portray a use of science that is unlikely to be used in quite that way in real life (but it may not be that far from reality).
The genius of this book lies more in what is not said that in what is actually said. For a large part of the book, the allusion are tantalizing, hinting at a dark secret, but it is never completely spelled out, as if we are meant to discover the fate of the characters at the same time as they are. The book features a first-person character, Kathy H., who is at the center of the mystery. We meet her at the beginning of the book as a young adult struggling with the meaning of her work. Then the book flashes back to long years of a sheltered, yet lonely, childhood spent in relative comfort in a country-side boarding school. There are never references to parents or families, as if the children are all orphaned and completely alone in the world.
And of course, they are. And the ethical issues are huge… How could one create human beings solely for the purpose of harvesting organs for transplant, to cure cancer? And then suppose that such beings have no soul, and do not require to live a life worth living, except for those described in the book, taken in by a movement that was intent of given their short lives meaning and developing both their minds and their artistic abilities, even if that was never to come to anything?
Some characters say that conditions in other homes were nothing as nice as Hailsham where Kathy H. grew up. One can only imagine the worst, maybe even children held in small cages, like chickens in a chicken coop?
One of Kathy H.’s friends, Tommy, has terrible temper tantrums that must be the expression of the terrible anguish he feels when he gets a glimpse, somehow, of what life is to be about for them.
A movie was made based on this book. Kathy H. is played by Carey Mulligan in a subdued way that is quite how I pictured her in the book. The movie trailer as well as some movie segments can be found on YouTube.
- “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro (randommuzings.wordpress.com)