Just finished Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (so mild spoilers ahead), and as I often like to do after turning the last page of a book, decided to look up some reviews to see what other people thought (I tend to read more reviews after I’ve read a book than before I buy one).
It didn’t take long to find someone pushing my geek buttons. Saying they don’t read science fiction because they only read books ‘based in reality’.
What do they think Never Let Me Go is? It may be marketed as literary fiction, but the story uses science that isn’t in use yet (cloning humans specifically, I mean), and takes place in a universe that clearly isn’t exactly the same as our own. If not classic ‘rockets in space’ science fiction, it is most certainly Speculative Fiction.
And what does ‘based in reality’ mean? Never Let Me Go may feature many elements of the world we recognise today, with characters that talk in contemporary voices, but it is still a step removed from reality.
There’s nothing wrong with that. All fiction is a ‘what-if’.
But it annoys the shit out of me that people think science fiction/speculative fiction/fantasy fiction is irrelevant because it’s not ‘real’. The sheer brilliance of all books on that spectrum is that they can use different times/worlds/scenarios/science to explore the human condition. Using a backdrop that isn’t this world often throws the spotlight on very real thoughts and emotions.
What the reviewer above probably meant is that they prefer near-future SF that is extrapolated from the science we already have today, but still…
As for the book, I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. Frustrated at the characters. The world-building is a bit thin. But I tore through it, and it’s definitely thought-provoking.