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Old 10-09-2018, 05:26 PM   #136
Catlady
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I don't agree in a general sense, though I understand that might not work for you. The book isn't about the science, so any details on it is extraneous to the core of the book. Or, at least that's my perception of it. No, this isn't a science fiction book, though it's not set in our current world. Could he have written it as a pure SF book? Certainly. But it would have been a different book, with a different raison d'etre. Would I have liked it better? Hard to imagine I would have liked it less. But clearly that was not the author's intent, and I'm willing to grant that he didn't allow himself to get distracted from the main point.
I must not be making myself clear. I'm not looking for SCIENCE; I'm looking for sense. I said in the initial discussion that I'd be perfectly happy if he made up explanations--I can suspend disbelief with the best of them; I'm not looking for them to be scientifically valid, just plausible. But when he goes contrary to fact, he needs to have a reason that's important to the story--as in his making the clones sterile.
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Old 10-09-2018, 09:18 PM   #137
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There was no denial of fact (sterile clones is a red herring - the book never defines cloning and sterility as cause and effect). You are looking for explanations and the author offers none. It was quite deliberate, not lazy. That you didn't like it is quite understandable, but that doesn't mean that the author was showing disdain for his readers as it is evident that the approach worked for a significant number of readers.

Normally I'd be right there with you in thinking the book a waste of effort. I normally prefer a more conventional plot, and more clearly explained reasons for peculiarities in the setting. Fiction is generally a comforting entertainment because it offers the explanations and closure that real life fails to provide, and I have enough unexplained things in my life without looking for more. So I find it hard to define exactly why Never Let Me Go worked for me, but it did.
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Old 10-09-2018, 10:20 PM   #138
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There was no denial of fact (sterile clones is a red herring - the book never defines cloning and sterility as cause and effect). You are looking for explanations and the author offers none. It was quite deliberate, not lazy. That you didn't like it is quite understandable, but that doesn't mean that the author was showing disdain for his readers as it is evident that the approach worked for a significant number of readers.
The point is that the author made the clones sterile for no reason. Why do it? I believe I used the analogy earlier that an author might choose to say the clones had three eyes. Fine, if he wanted to make that up, I'd go with it, but I'd have a right to expect it to MATTER to the story in some way. The sterility was neither factual nor relevant; nor was there any relevance to the lessons in how clones and nonclones had different views of sex and clones needed to be aware of that.

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Normally I'd be right there with you in thinking the book a waste of effort. I normally prefer a more conventional plot, and more clearly explained reasons for peculiarities in the setting. Fiction is generally a comforting entertainment because it offers the explanations and closure that real life fails to provide, and I have enough unexplained things in my life without looking for more. So I find it hard to define exactly why Never Let Me Go worked for me, but it did.
I assure you, I am quite happy to read fiction that is uncomfortable, challenging, and disturbing, but the author still needs to make it plausible and provide a semblance of reality.

An author needs to know every detail about the world he creates, whether the specifics end up on the page or not--when he doesn't, it shows. This author doesn't seem to have any idea of how his fictional world actually functions.
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Old 10-09-2018, 10:48 PM   #139
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The point is that the author made the clones sterile for no reason. Why do it? [...]
I'm not going to argue the rest (we've been there done that and failed to convince each other), I'm just pointing out that there is no denial of fact.

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I assure you, I am quite happy to read fiction that is uncomfortable, challenging, and disturbing, but the author still needs to make it plausible and provide a semblance of reality.

An author needs to know every detail about the world he creates, whether the specifics end up on the page or not--when he doesn't, it shows. This author doesn't seem to have any idea of how his fictional world actually functions.
Not telling the reader is not the same thing as not knowing - there is a lot that authors never get around to telling their readers.

All I was trying to say is that some books work for some readers and some don't. This didn't for you, fine, but your insistence that the author doesn't know what he is doing implicitly denigrates the reaction of those that did enjoy the book - and I object to that (since I happen to be one of them).
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Old 10-10-2018, 07:49 AM   #140
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I still can't get past the niggling feeling that this has something to do with the way World War II (or at least the Nazi experimentation) resorted itself in his alternate history. Is this a world where the Holocaust was not made known, and therefore more palatable to the people of England that there be little farms for organ donors?

I am not looking for an answer, but I am pleased that the book made me consider the question of what leads a society to the acceptance of this situation.
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Old 10-10-2018, 08:30 AM   #141
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I still can't get past the niggling feeling that this has something to do with the way World War II (or at least the Nazi experimentation) resorted itself in his alternate history. Is this a world where the Holocaust was not made known, and therefore more palatable to the people of England that there be little farms for organ donors?

I am not looking for an answer, but I am pleased that the book made me consider the question of what leads a society to the acceptance of this situation.
I agree that World War II looms large in this as it did overtly in The Remains of the Day. I wonder to what extent his background of growing up Japanese in England in the postwar might have contributed to that? The Japanese also engaged in atrocities in the human experimentation and unlike the Germans, were largely unwilling to admit and atone.
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Old 10-10-2018, 08:36 AM   #142
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The sketchiness of the background is deliberate, but not to make a point. The author had a story he wanted to tell and he told that and little else. If I recall correctly the author states he carried the characters around in his head for 20 years and decided on cloning only because he listened or watched a program on it. The background was not at all important to the author, and it shows. To me it didn't work. I am pleased for those for whom it did work. Each to their own.

@Catlady. Whilst I think the author did little or no research on cloning I don't think this was due to laziness. I think self-indulgent is likely closer to the mark. He wrote the story he wanted to write with I suspect little consideration of readers. Sort of take it or leave it.

@astrangerhere. I really don't think the author considered how such a world might have developed, leaving us to fill it in for ourselves. All we are told is that harvesting these clones provides cures for virtually all diseases. If this were in fact true it is very easy to imagine that the Nazi's would have pioneered the field, given their access to a large group of human beings who they had no compunction in using for experiments.
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Old 10-10-2018, 09:12 AM   #143
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I agree that World War II looms large in this as it did overtly in The Remains of the Day. [...]
Yes, I thought this came across quite strongly, even down to a certain starkness and sparseness in the countryside; this did not feel like a rich country, almost as if it was still recovering from the war.

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[...] I think self-indulgent is likely closer to the mark. He wrote the story he wanted to write with I suspect little consideration of readers. [...]
Perhaps my own endeavours in the field have made me overly sensitive, but I find such judgements on an author ... presumptuous. Just because I didn't like something the author did it wrong? It's particularly obvious in a case like this where evidence abounds that a great many readers like the book very much, and the work has won considerable critical acclaim. I don't expect to like a book just because it's popular, but if a book finds favour among a significant audience then I feel that criticising the author is flying in the face of the evidence - they obviously did something right, even if it wasn't right for me.

Disclaimer: I suspect we all sometimes express a criticism as fault when we are meaning only that it wasn't to our taste, and sometimes authors really do screw up, or just aren't that good, but sometimes the expressions of fault are so explicit but seemingly out of place as to beg for correction ... or so it seems to me.
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Old 10-10-2018, 11:41 AM   #144
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The sketchiness of the background is deliberate, but not to make a point. The author had a story he wanted to tell and he told that and little else. If I recall correctly the author states he carried the characters around in his head for 20 years and decided on cloning only because he listened or watched a program on it. The background was not at all important to the author, and it shows. To me it didn't work. I am pleased for those for whom it did work. Each to their own.

@Catlady. Whilst I think the author did little or no research on cloning I don't think this was due to laziness. I think self-indulgent is likely closer to the mark. He wrote the story he wanted to write with I suspect little consideration of readers. Sort of take it or leave it..
Frankly, I still don't know what story the author wanted to tell. It seemed to be a fairly standard tragic romantic triangle with flawed characters living limited lives--fine, but setting that story in a world of clones and cloning certainly indicates some grander theme or purpose, which is never realized.

Self-indulgent is a good description, but it could be argued that self-indulgence and laziness go hand in hand.

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Perhaps my own endeavours in the field have made me overly sensitive, but I find such judgements on an author ... presumptuous. Just because I didn't like something the author did it wrong? It's particularly obvious in a case like this where evidence abounds that a great many readers like the book very much, and the work has won considerable critical acclaim. I don't expect to like a book just because it's popular, but if a book finds favour among a significant audience then I feel that criticising the author is flying in the face of the evidence - they obviously did something right, even if it wasn't right for me.

Disclaimer: I suspect we all sometimes express a criticism as fault when we are meaning only that it wasn't to our taste, and sometimes authors really do screw up, or just aren't that good, but sometimes the expressions of fault are so explicit but seemingly out of place as to beg for correction ... or so it seems to me.
No, it's not just a matter of taste. I don't need to like a book to find the author credible. I just finished Red Clocks by Leni Zumas, which I absolutely hated. But Zumas had a vision and a purpose that came across on the page; she constructed a fictional world that was plausible and fully realized. That I hated it was a matter of taste; I can still see why others have embraced it. My opinions about Never Let You Go are different--I think the author was lazy, self-indulgent, and disdainful of the readers.

And I don't care if every critic in the world disagrees with me.
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Old 10-10-2018, 12:54 PM   #145
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[...]
No, it's not just a matter of taste. [...]
And I don't care if every critic in the world disagrees with me.
Hmm... okay. I think I might just step away very slowly about now.
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Old 10-11-2018, 02:44 AM   #146
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Perhaps my own endeavours in the field have made me overly sensitive, but I find such judgements on an author ... presumptuous. Just because I didn't like something the author did it wrong?
Certainly I think the author did it wrong. For me, and for readers like me. If I was purporting to speak for all readers or for you in particular I would indeed be presumptuous. I acknowledged that it did work for some readers, and that this is fine. For those readers he clearly didn't do it wrong. However, it is my strong impression that at least with this book he has written what he wanted to write in the full knowledge that many readers would find it frustrating and unsatisfying. I think this impression of mine originated with his explanation for something which didn't trouble me personally but did trouble others. That is, the passive acceptance by the clones of their fate. He answered that this (ie; a story about them resisting) was not the story he wanted to tell. Also the fact that he picked the concept of cloning as a vehicle to talk about characters that had been in his head for 20 years. He was very focused and I think he simply didn't care about the background.

@Catlady. Yes. Self-indulgence can amount to laziness, and it certainly could in this case. Personally I don't think it has. In earlier posts I think I put the word "story" in inverted commas. It is not uncommon in literary fiction, particularly in more pretentious literary fiction, for there to be so little plot that the word "story" is strained if not broken all together. As I understand it the author had characters in mind, and wanted to write a story about people facing their own mortality. The setting was simply used to create a background to examine this. He created a group of people with a compressed lifespan and wrote about their characters and interactions, which is all I think he wanted to do. There are any number of settings which he could have used to achieve this. But he created this particular world which to me cried out for explanation and development. He chose not to give any. To me, he failed with this book.

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Old 10-11-2018, 04:16 AM   #147
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Certainly I think the author did it wrong. For me, and for readers like me. If I was purporting to speak for all readers or for you in particular I would indeed be presumptuous. [...]
But if it is "for me" then why express it the an author's fault? Particularly when it is apparent that this is a successful book (maybe not Harry Potter successful, but still very successful as book publications go). Doesn't this give you some reason to hesitate before laying fault at the author's feet?

I'm not suggesting that you express it as your own fault either. Incompatibility is one of those "--it happens" things. Fault need not come into it.

I brought up a phrase earlier that I suspect may have been misinterpreted: "receptive frame of mind". This wasn't intended as derogatory to those that did not enjoy the book; when I'm really not enjoying something I am far from receptive of a book's good points. I can give you chapter and verse of on what I thought was wrong A Game of Thrones. But do I think GRRM did it wrong? What hubris if I did!

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He was very focused and I think he simply didn't care about the background.[...]
These are the sorts of assumptions that make me cringe (possibly only because experience tells me how far from true they can be). So he said he saw a program on cloning, that only speaks of inspiration, you can't assume that that was the end of his research. There are other articles on the net about the research he put into Remains Of The Day, for example. As I noted earlier, choosing not to tell the reader is not the same thing as not knowing in his own mind.

Yes, it is apparent from the text that the background is not what he wanted to explore in detail, but "didn't care"? The only evidence you have for this is that he did not satisfy your need for background explanation. For other readers there was an abundance of background implied, and implied was enough for some but not others. We don't actually know how much of the background the author had realised in his mind - together we have explored many of the possible explanations, so we know they exist - we only know that the background is not where he was trying to concentrate the reader. Yes, the fact that some readers are searching for background despite what he wanted can be seen as a failure, but as an author I'd be absolutely ecstatic about that level of failure!


One of the downsides to book club arrangements, like the one here, is that we may end up feeling pressured to read a book we would not otherwise have tried, or to finish a book we may otherwise have discarded early, and perhaps this leaves us feeling a bit put upon when the book does not work. But is this the author's fault?

I am not saying that authors never get it wrong, but sometimes a bit of context can lend some realism to our appraisals.

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Old 10-11-2018, 05:18 AM   #148
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@gmw. It seems we are going to have to agree to disagree on this. We certainly seem to have very different perspectives. Which is a very good thing. It is always good to hear other's points of view to test our own, even in circumstances like this where there is no definite answer. I enjoy your posts, even when we disagree, at least so far. i'm almost curious enough to try one of your books!
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Old 10-11-2018, 11:46 AM   #149
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As I understand it the author had characters in mind, and wanted to write a story about people facing their own mortality. The setting was simply used to create a background to examine this. He created a group of people with a compressed lifespan and wrote about their characters and interactions, which is all I think he wanted to do. There are any number of settings which he could have used to achieve this. But he created this particular world which to me cried out for explanation and development. He chose not to give any. To me, he failed with this book.
Yes. This.

When an author chooses something so out-there and so morally questionable as clones created specifically as a donor class, how can a reader not be primed to want details and explanations, even brief ones? A more mundane backdrop would not have been such a distraction.

And if there's going to be a lengthy and annoying information dump, it ought to provide more substance and answer more questions.
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Old 10-11-2018, 01:19 PM   #150
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And if there's going to be a lengthy and annoying information dump, it ought to provide more substance and answer more questions.
World-building certainly does not seem to be his forte.
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