2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
How to farm a human being, 2 April 2009
Given that there are already 194 reviews here of this novel, I am very sure that this extra one is not required ! Nonetheless, I give my thoughts on this novel.
I think that the sub-title for this novel should be "How to Farm a Human Being".
The headline for my reaction to, and thoughts about this novel, is that this is another truly good novel from this excellent author - I really enjoyed reading this.
Now comes the analysis, which is much more difficult. I am not going to try to precis the story - that is done much more effectively elsewhere. All that I will try to do here is to outline some of the topics that the novel raised for me, and what I felt about them.
I would describe this as a "sociological" science fiction novel - not a genre which I think is over crowded.
The premise of the novel is not so very far fetched, I think.
It seems to me that Ishiguro is fascinated by the ordinariness of dystopia, and by the ease with which we can all travel our lives without questioning. I think that in "Remains of the Day" he examined similar questions where the butler carries out his 'butlering' to the best of his abilities, but in so doing is complicit in his employers abhorent Nazism, pretty much to the extent of condoning it. I think that Kathy in this novel is in some ways in a similar position being complicit in what can be seen as an abhorent system. Neither the butler in "Remains of the Day" nor Kathy in this novel question the system - they sometimes questions lesser aspects of the system, but they never question the actual system.
The dystopia which Ishiguro presents here is a very ordinary one - in many ways it is not a dystopia at all. It is only when one looks at the bigger picture that this can be seen as a dystopia. Compare this to the case of the "Matrix" world in which the dystopia is obvious and apparent to all. It seems to me that from the point of view of our ancestors of only two or three generations ago, we currently live in a dystopia. We are invisibly tethered to machines throughout the day - and often the night -, observed by "the state" wherever we go, our freedom to travel from country to country tighter now than at any point in history, less secure - both in terms of employment and physical safety - less healthy, less active and less sociable.
Possibly Ishiguro is also trying to answer the question of how can ordinary 'decent' people do terrible things to other human beings as in the case of Nazi Germany.
I think that one message that Ishiguro would like us to take away from this novel is the necessity of questioning 'authority' - not necessarily in order to overturn it, but at least to challenge it.
I do not feel that Ishiguro comes down on one or other sides of the argument - ie: is this a "good" or "bad" thing - and I think that he is right to take this neutral stance. I think that the issues are complex, and that - strong - arguments can be made for both cases.
For what it's worth, my view is that human cloning is 'bad' - this is from a moral viewpoint, but also from a practical one. Morally it is 'bad' because it necessarily 'farms' human beings, and practically because the purpose of the whole thing is to prolong human life, and to escape death for some time. It seems to me that death is a natural part of life, and the resources bought to bear to defer death need to be proportionate.