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This review is from: Never Let Me Go (Paperback)
A heart-wrenchingly tender piece of contemplative science fiction that is as nuanced in its perception as it is unsparing in its vision. Unfolding in overlapping flashbacks and reminisces of a fascinatingly sensitive young woman called Kathy, a human clone, as she recollects with alternating anguish and delight the experiences and world she shared with two of her best mates-Tommy and Ruth-while growing up in a sheltered boarding school cum clone-rearing facility called Hailsham, "Never Let Me Go" is so masterful a piece of work, that at any one moment-it works on multiple levels. An incisive allegory, a scary dystopian sci-fi, an immensely intimate tragedy of epic proportions: it manages to be all of this and then some more.
Fabulously conceptualised throughout with its water-tight, internally valid alternate future that feels bone-chillingly close and plausible at all times [and not nerdy-indulgent or gimickily-geeky as this genre is fraught of]. You feel its subcutaneous tendrils creeping every now and then thanks to the deception Ishiguro employs of slipping in the horrifying realities and details of the existence of these cloned mortals rather matter-of-factly in Kathy's memories and impressions. Since at the heart of it, these are sheltered little kids we are talking of who have been sneakily brought up to accept the fatalism of their existence as the norm, the sheer brutality of it only rears its head in their inventive theories, ingenious plots, distorted fantasies, disjointed accounts, simple world concepts and the final revelations. The whole affair becomes pregnant automatically with an awful amount of intrigue and mystery by its own accord thanks to the over-active imaginations and extrapolations of these kiddos who grow up to little more than semi-adults. So finally when the curtains do fall, you are right there with Kathy and Tommy as the fantasy-wrapped-hopes crash to smithereens. Loss of innocence seldom hurt so much, as they do here, in the book's excruciating finale(s).
The book's twin triumphs remain its unfussily natural characters who are all-heart. Though exploring the perspective of a replicant or a clone comes with an automatic sympathetic arc, not once does Ishiguro [clearly at top of his game] feel the need to wallow in easy sentimentality. The construction of mood and atmosphere is as meticulous as the neurotic dissection of conversations and gestures. Even at its most predictable, it never loses its vice-like grip and Kathy's intuitive, warm characterisation makes for a thoroughly engaging narrator. In fact all the main characters throb with so much life [even though they are Kathy's remembered versions], it is hard not to care for them. Even the fringest of teacher here or a care-taker there commands attention. And then there is the subtlety, the grace and the sheer delicacy in how Ishiguro goes about it all. The humour, the griefs, the contradictions, the caring and sharing, the misunderstandings, the misfires, the regrets, the growing-up lessons, the awareness and finally the grasp of what really "matters" and what it's all about: he gives you an honest glimpse at everything that makes us human in this sweeping little fable chronicling the life and times of, ironically enough, [potential] sub-humans. Superb!