Back in 2005, Kazuo Ishiguro released his delicate novel “Never Let Me Go.”
You may remember Ishiguro as the author of “Remains of the Day,” which was adapted into a motion picture of the same name starring Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and Christopher Reeve. That novel explored the idea that the British Empire had seen the end of its day and that the Second World War would bring this reality to a shattering epiphany.
“Never Let Me Go,” cited by Time as the best novel of 2005, is first rate science fiction (and was a finalist for the 2006 Arthur C. Clarke Award), but it is not what one thinks of as traditional science fiction. There are no spaceships or whirling inventions, but rather the novel is one about cloning and the ethics of that business. In the novel, clones are raised in order to bank up spare parts for their donors. They are kept separate from the rest of the world in an academy “Hailsham,” where they are free to create art and happy lives as they prepare to make the donations that will steal their lives one organ at a time. One may provide a kidney and still live; a heart, however, is unable to be harvested without the expiration of the clone. In this academy, two clones fall in love and try to bypass the system, hoping to find love that will allow them to transcend their lot in life.
Ishiguro asks a provocative question: are clones human? If not, are they capable of genuine love? Should they be allowed to have children of their own? Do they have legal rights? If they are human, then why should they be required to sacrifice their lives for the sakes of their “donors”?
The film adaptation of “Never Let Me Go” is coming out on October 1 (trailer here) ; it stars Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield and will be rated R for nudity and sexuality, according to the trailer, which makes me sad because the delicacy of Ishiguru’s story cries out for subtlety and imagination.
If you haven’t read the book and you have any interest in the ethics of cloning, buy the book and put yourself in the shoes of these rich characters, enjoying Ishiguro’s heady prose along the way. It’s not a Christian worldview, but his points are ones that lie downstream from the faith in every way.