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A thought-provoking tale of friendship and robots

Most fiction about robots seems to fall into one of two categories: stories about how they’re going to kill us all or stories about how robots become an integral part of our lives. Although I enjoy the former—the first two Terminator movies are classics for a reason, and there are some terrific episodes of Black Mirror that tackle the subject—I’m drawn more to books and movies that paint robots in a positive light.

Robots are going to play a huge role in our future, and fiction is a great way to explore what exactly that might mean. So, when I found out that Kazuo Ishiguro had written a new novel about robots called Klara and the Sun, I couldn’t wait to pick it up. I read Remains of the Day years ago and thought it was brilliant. His latest is just as thoughtful and beautifully written as you’d expect from him.

The Klara in the title is an “artificial friend” who provides companionship to a sick 14-year-old girl named Josie. The story takes place in a dystopian future where children have been genetically “lifted’ to be smarter. The process of lifting is risky, and it’s the cause of Josie’s illness. Children only attend school online, so many kids have robot friends like Klara to try and make up for the lack of socialization. We don’t find out much about the world outside of Josie’s home, but there are references to frequent terrorism and environmental catastrophe.

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