There are clues hidden in the first few paragraphs of this novel as to what will follow, but they are cryptic, understandable only in hindsight after you have made it almost to the end. Therefore, to me at least, the beginning is so slow that I almost put it down, and I almost never put a book down once I have started it. That said, I persevered, and I’m glad I did. After about seventy or eighty pages it got thoroughly absorbing and hard to stop reading.
It’s a quiet little horror story, a science fiction story actually, although it is not marketed as such. That’s the advantage of being primarily known as a literary author – and Ishiguro certainly is, having won the Booker Prize for his earlier novel, “The Remains of the Day”. But science fiction it is. However, it is a slow burn, and the science fictional premise of raising cloned kids to harvest their organs for transplants though, as I said, alluded to in the first few paragraphs, is introduced in depth slowly and subtly as the characters live out their short sad little lives.
I suppose I’ve committed the indiscretion of revealing too much of the plot to you, but there are two reasons for doing so. First of all, the main point of the story is not a buildup to reveal (surprise, surprise) that the kids are clones and will be cut up for the sake of others. It is to delve deeply into the lives of the three main characters, to show what it would be like to be human but to be put into a position like that where you are treated as less than human and disposable. Analogies to reality and our present timeline and recent history resonate throughout, though the story is presented as a sort of alternate history in which these programs were begun shortly after the second world war. Secondly, the book has been made into a well-received film, and many will already be familiar with the plot. Personally, I haven’t seen the movie; to my knowledge it never made it here to Greece. I’m waiting now for the DVD to hit the shops. I’m glad, actually, that I read the book first, as I might have thought, if I had first seen the film, that it was not worth it to take the time to read the book as well.
I would have been wrong. The book is excellent. The only fault I find is the slow start, which bordered on boring but in hindsight was necessary to build up to all that follows.
I highly recommend the book. I have been contemplating writing something on the fact that science fiction and fantasy editors, as a rule, demand that a story start and build quickly, with a bang, so as not to lose the readers interest. Sometimes I prefer a slow start, to just saunter along with the writer and let him take me where he will. This book put that idea to the test. I couldn’t help thinking that superlative though this novel is, had it been written by an unpublished writer and submitted through the slush pile, that is, the unsolicited manuscripts that arrive at an editor’s office, it never would have made it into print. But it did, and the world of literature is richer for it.