Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Best Thing About the Clarke Award

It's the c-word, presumably, that has earned [Never Let Me Go] its place on the Clarke list, although it's a justification of 'WMDs-in-Iraq-therefore-we-invade' slenderness. Cloning in this novel means only two things. It means a certain difference between the protagonists and 'normal people': difference that is slight, in many ways, but felt profoundly by the individuals concerned. And it means death: the fact that these bright young people will, inevitably, have their bodies invasively compromised and their lives ended whilst they are still young. It may be that Ishiguro frames his fable as obliquely as he does in order to try and prevent it becoming too obviously an existential allegory -- 'for are we not all,' intones the pompous critical voice, 'in the same situation? Are we not all in a sense executed for a crime we did not commit?' Actually I'm not quoting criticus pompous here, I'm quoting Woody Allen's Love and Death, the bit where Boris is in the condemned cell awaiting execution for a murder he didn't commit ('the difference,' Boris observes, 'is that we all go "some time". Whereas I go at six o'clock tomorrow morning. It was going to be five o'clock, but I hired a smart lawyer. He got leniency.') I'm getting distracted; but there's a reason for that. That's what's missing in Ishiguro's treatment: comedy. Wit. Irony. Or, indeed, human warmth of any kind.
Also, a rant about cats (which has got me seriously considering giving Accelerando a miss). Go read.


niall said...

Yes, I thought of you when I read that paragraph. :p

re Accelerando: he's right that the cat can be very annoying, but for most of the book it's not a major player in the actual telling of the story. And since he's also right about the other merits of the book, I'd say you should give it a go.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

The cat isn't the only reason that Roberts' review has got me wary of reading the book. I hadn't known that it was made up of the Manfred and Amber Maxx stories. I've read a few of them and found them invariably annoying and uninvolving - gee whizz technological extravaganzas with almost no characters to root for (the Muslim kadi in the Amber stories is fun, but in both of the stories I read his task was mostly to be scandalized by Amber's behavior, and that wears thin after a while) and a plot that was a headache to follow and didn't really reward said efforts. I'm not sure I want to commit my time to more forays into the same universe.

niall said...

Ah. Yeah, if you've read some of the stories and didn't like them, the rest of the book's not going to convince you otherwise.

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