Kazuo Ishiguro’s NEVER LET ME GO is speculative fiction at its best. Ishiguro contemplates an alternate reality where clones are raised for spare parts. Do I hear groaning? Relax, this isn’t yet another rehash of a tired old science fiction troupe: step one, clones are blissfully ignorant; step two, clones realize they’re only spare parts; step three, clones rebel. No, instead Ishiguro uses the premise to look inside the lives of the clones and explore what it means to be human through the lens of this particular dystopia. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything if I tell you there is no rebellion. This is a hopeless situation and Ishiguro offers no pat solution for a happy ending. His story is about finding the spark of life within the hopelessness.
The story begins with the clones as children and follows a linked trio as they progress all the way to the ends of their lives. It is a slow and mournful symphony that gets under your skin and stays there. No essay on bioethics could make the point better: there are consequences to our societal choices that run deep. He offers no solutions, just makes it impossible to turn a blind eye. Literary speculative fiction like this is rare. I guess this reflects the market, which caters to our ever-decreasing attention spans with a glut of fast paced, easy to digest fare. Too bad, because more speculative fiction like NEVER LET ME GO would elevate expectations and perhaps allow SF publishers to deliver more than the literary equivalent of blinking lights and loud noises. In the meantime I’ll keep on spelunking for gems like this.