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Old 09-16-2018, 03:52 AM   #16
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I don't agree with this. Something set in the "real world" needs to have some believability to it. Or he needed to include something to help us suspend our disbelief. Without that, it just fails. [...]
I can think of many books that are in no way believable from outside the story but are still enjoyable on one level or another while I'm reading. And I did enjoy this book from inside the story.

I think we risk over-generalising when we don't like a book - I do it as much as (or more than) the next person. When we are enjoying a book we are happy to forgive a lot, but when a book fails to get us in, the faults (and all books have them) stand out.
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Old 09-16-2018, 04:24 AM   #17
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[...snipped for brevity...] The demand for organs in this dystopia is not necessarily just for transplant. They are needed to be used in some unexplained fashion to produce the cures. [...]
Yes. This is the sort of thing I was trying to get at earlier: that what seem to be holes are not necessarily holes largely thanks to the lack of traditional sci-fi explanation. All the reader needs is to do is accept that such explanations can exist. The reader may, optionally, choose to use their imagination to fill in the blanks for themselves, but because the technical background is incidental (cloning is a prop, not the raison d'être), they risk creating holes for themselves. Sometimes it is better to just accept.

The very lack of detailed explanation is one reason why (I thought) it was clear that cloning and organ donation were not the subject of this story.

Regarding the "just accept" bit above. We can be more inclined to do so with a known/trusted author. A new author cannot always get away with pushing their readers quite this far. Reputation and experience have to count for something.
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Old 09-16-2018, 04:32 AM   #18
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[...] In sharp contrast, Never Let Me Go jealously guards the underlying secret almost until the end, dropping hints throughout the book. We were left to guess at the secret from these hints. I certainly reached the conclusion that the children were clones of some sort quite early. [...]
I didn't see it quite like this. For me there was no "big reveal". What explanation was offered by Madame and Miss Emily near the end was almost the worst part of the book - we didn't need it. The world had been reveal piece by piece as the characters interacted. There were no surprises at the end, just the growing expanse of consequence. For example: of course, after they can no longer live with what's left, the remains will need to be kept fresh until it can be used, which raises the question of when they can truly be considered "complete". It's not surprising as such, it's just an unavoidable consequence being made clear and explicit by the characters as they interact. This, for me, showed Ishiguro earning his reputation.
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Old 09-16-2018, 04:37 AM   #19
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TL,DR.

Seriously, folks. If you post tomes here, you run the very real risk of people missing your points. And it really is a buzz kill. Try keeping it short and succinct. Then we can all discuss/argue/debate a particular good/bad feature.

Or, you can all just dump on me. That's fine too.
I don't know, is a half-a-dozen shorter posts any better than one long one?

Some books can inspire a lot of thought, and for me this was one of them. I believe it is a book that isn't trying to tell you what to think, it's just asking that you do. ... And it can be difficult to put this sort of stuff into short and succinct summaries.
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Old 09-16-2018, 05:13 AM   #20
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I think the medical situation is merely a prop in the story, I don't think the story itself is intended to be about cloning.
I totally agree. This is science fiction of the type that uses the science to create a world so as to explore other issues. It is not about the science, which in this case is deliberately vague perhaps because it is so implausible. This is actually much easier to accept in this type of story because the science is simply incidental. In so far as the book can be said to be about one thing it is I think the human need to rationalise our more appalling actions by dehumanising those subject to them. This passage from The Silence of the Lambs comes to mind:

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“Nothing I wouldn't try if he had one of mine. Why did she keep saying 'Catherine,' why the name all the time?”
“She's trying to make Buffalo Bill see Catherine as a person. They're thinking he'll have to depersonalize her, he'll have to see her as an object before he can tear her up. Serial murderers talk about that in prison interviews, some of them. They say it's like working on a doll.”
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I didn't see it quite like this. For me there was no "big reveal". What explanation was offered by Madame and Miss Emily near the end was almost the worst part of the book - we didn't need it.
We don't agree on this but certainly your experience is equally as valid as mine. Personally I did need that explanation, although minimal. It is only in that conversation that we learn why the school existed and what the donations were in fact for. Only in that conversation do we see the full horror of the situation. For me, the book would not have been complete without it. Indeed, without this explanation I would have found it so unsatisfactory that I would have struggled to give it even a single star.
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Old 09-16-2018, 02:49 PM   #21
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I don't know, is a half-a-dozen shorter posts any better than one long one?

Some books can inspire a lot of thought, and for me this was one of them. I believe it is a book that isn't trying to tell you what to think, it's just asking that you do. ... And it can be difficult to put this sort of stuff into short and succinct summaries.
I certainly find it promotes more discussion to have focused posts rather than longer ones. I don't think I'm alone in finding really long posts harder to respond to. And I'm reminded of Mark Twain's "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." Writing tight, well thought out, and succinct criticism is more difficult, certainly.
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Old 09-16-2018, 02:56 PM   #22
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I think the medical situation is merely a prop in the story, I don't think the story itself is intended to be about cloning. The story is sci-fi only to the extent that it is an alternative history piece, and perhaps to the extent that it supposes we might segregate people like this (which should come as no surprise at all). The cloning is a prop, the donor system is a way of presenting people going to their completion willingly - as a result of the way society has segregated them and educated them.

I think fantasyfan hit it pretty close when describing the students leaving to begin their cycle of Carer-Donor-Completion. In the story, the cloning is merely a prop to implement this cycle.
I don't agree at all. I think this is very much about using clones (who are explicitly less than human) as organ farms. That some are treated better than others leads me into thinking about how we justify "ethical veal" as opposed to the more traditional kind. After all, they're only animals, and if we treat them well, it's OK to 'complete' them onto our table.
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Old 09-16-2018, 03:01 PM   #23
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I agree with you about the more annoying than interesting. But who decides that the book or the author is very important? A few self-appointed arbiters of such things, which are themselves highly subjective. Personally I only take account of such things in the decision whether to read, and then only rarely.
(Emphasis mine): Oh, I think we both might have our doubts about the arbiters of such things. After all I _was_ being sarcastic.

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But I must respectfully disagree with the rest of your post with the exception of your rating. Personally I think we should be trying to think deep thoughts for the whole of our lives, or at least as long as we are able to. And our personal answers to deep questions should be, if not constantly at least periodically, challenged and reviewed throughout our lifetime. Certainly some of my "answers" now have evolved or sometimes even changed dramatically since I was in my 20's.
But do I need to think deep thoughts about things I have already made rational decisions about? Hardly. And by my age, I would certainly hope I understood the implications of both cloning and organ donations.
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Old 09-16-2018, 03:42 PM   #24
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I haven't re-read it this time around but I did read it a few years back and enjoyed it with some reservations.

It is a little frustrating that some of the "why?" questions aren't better dealt with, as they would be in "good" SciFi but Ishiguro isn't really interested in the SciFi aspects of the book, it's just a device, a metaphor to allow him to talk about mortality. And he does that rather well, with well-drawn characters and affecting relationships.

Here's Ishiguro talking about the novel when the movie came out.
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Old 09-16-2018, 08:03 PM   #25
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Never Let Me Go (2005) is the third novel by Ishiguro that I have read. The Literary Club read The Remains of the Day (1989) which won the Man Booker Award, and I also have read his latest book The Buried Giant (2015). I haven’t been able to identify exactly why they don’t live up to my expectations. However, they keep me thinking about them long after I turn the last page, so I persist to read his books.

If you are familiar with his works, then it is obvious that they have the similar theme of memory (remembering and forgetting and concealed truths). His books do not follow a specific time/action moving plot line. The emphasis is on the characters and on human relationships (in particular friendships and love in the face of mortality). Ishiguro’s writing process is that he focuses on the characters and the themes first. The setting comes last. He does not think consciously about genre.

Ishiguro writes literary fiction, but he doesn’t see himself boxed into a category of either serious, snobby high-brow literature or mainstream genre definitions. To him science fiction elements like the dystopian dimension (or fantasy elements in The Buried Giant) are techniques in his writer’s toolbox to enhance the story in a way he could not if he wrote strictly realist fiction. It is not intended to be a science fiction genre novel, and therefore the science is intentionally vague and incidental. He has said in interviews that he considers this book to be an alternate history concept. For 15 years he was developing these student characters and the idea to do a campus novel with some sort of strange fate hanging over their heads but couldn’t figure out what. Then he was listening to a biotechnical program on the radio, and he realized the missing puzzle piece to define their fate.

The setting of the book is a bleak, cold and grey England set in rural landscape and seaside towns. It is dreary and adds to the depressing atmosphere when you realize the character’s fate and contrasts with the few happy memories of childhood innocence and the hope that true soulmate love may allow one to escape their fate. Ishiguro has said that his settings of Japan and England in his books are completely stylized to match his own imagination and a more mythical ideal rather than a detailed reality. He has said that part of his struggle with setting is because of his personal immigrant experience. He was born in Japan and moved to England when was young always thinking that his family would move back to Japan but never did.

I have many more thoughts, but I will start with that for now.
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Old 09-16-2018, 08:45 PM   #26
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The use of "complete" as an intransitive verb was brilliant; in the sense of the Nazi's usage of "Final Solution" as extreme euphemism - a hint of the larger society that we never see in the novel.
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Old 09-16-2018, 10:40 PM   #27
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(Emphasis mine): Oh, I think we both might have our doubts about the arbiters of such things. After all I _was_ being sarcastic.
Sorry. Point taken. I read what should have very obvious incorrectly. Unfortunately it does happen sometimes.
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Old 09-16-2018, 10:59 PM   #28
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I don't agree at all. I think this is very much about using clones (who are explicitly less than human) as organ farms. That some are treated better than others leads me into thinking about how we justify "ethical veal" as opposed to the more traditional kind. After all, they're only animals, and if we treat them well, it's OK to 'complete' them onto our table.
And Animal Farm was a story about talking animals? Seriously though, if you try to see this book as a science fiction morality tale then it is undoubtedly a failure. It does not fulfil the implied promises of science fiction.

With such a bleak tale I think we feel a certain pressure to believe that there should be more, that there should be a positive or a morality, that the characters should have been trying to escape their destiny. It feels wrong to us because we can see what they are facing, and it seems so unfair. But what is more difficult for us - the reader - is to realise that they (the protagonists in this story) don't see it the same way. They have been told but not told. They know but they don't see or accept any alternative. And this aspect of the story feels all too real to me.
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Old 09-16-2018, 11:31 PM   #29
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I haven't re-read it this time around but I did read it a few years back and enjoyed it with some reservations.

It is a little frustrating that some of the "why?" questions aren't better dealt with, as they would be in "good" SciFi but Ishiguro isn't really interested in the SciFi aspects of the book, it's just a device, a metaphor to allow him to talk about mortality. And he does that rather well, with well-drawn characters and affecting relationships.

Here's Ishiguro talking about the novel when the movie came out.
Thanks for the link. It is very interesting to hear his explanation ... but I am very glad that I read the book first.

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[...] I haven’t been able to identify exactly why they don’t live up to my expectations. However, they keep me thinking about them long after I turn the last page, so I persist to read his books. [...]
Yes, it is that "thinking about them long after" that gets to me too.

I've been saying that I enjoyed Never Let Me Go, but fascinated by it is probably more accurate. It quickly became apparent that it would not be a happy tale and so a certain amount of dread accompanied the experience, and there is little to lighten or alleviate that feeling. This makes it hard to espouse unreserved enthusiasm for the book. It's more, "I think this is a really good book but ..."
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Old 09-16-2018, 11:47 PM   #30
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@Bookworm_Girl. I liked your comments, probably because you take a completely different approach to what I have. I like a work to stand alone unless of course it is one of a particular series. The less I know about the author before reading a book the happier I am. That is not to say that it is in any way invalid to look at an authors work as a whole whether in conjunction with their life history or not. But that for me is a different exercise to reading a single book or series.

This is the only book by Ishiguro I have read, and quite possibly the only one I ever will read. Personally I didn't see memory as a major theme. To me, memory was the device used to tell the "story", such as it was, but not a major theme in itself. Perhaps I would see things differently had I read some of his other works? But if this work is intended as a stand-alone novel yet a major theme is not apparent from the novel alone, then has the novel failed to at least some extent? Or is memory a major theme of the authors work as opposed to any particular book?

I also agree with you about the incidental nature of the science elements.

To quote briefly from your post:

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For 15 years he was developing these student characters and the idea to do a campus novel with some sort of strange fate hanging over their heads.
The "science" was indeed entirely incidental and deliberately vague. Even the little that was spelled out is inconsistent with the science we do know. But it doesn't matter. It is just a device to tell a story he wanted to tell, and we must suspend our disbelief. If you must call it fantasy or even alternate reality as well as alternate history.

I also agree that his focus is on the development of characters and relationships. Unfortunately, as with much literary fiction, this comes at the cost of dispensing with a meaningful plot. Personally I don't like most fiction of this type, though I certainly appreciate that others do.
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