The less you read about this novel before you actually read the novel … the better.
I’ll avoid spoilers here and just say this:
I remember when I saw M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, I thought, “There’s a great horror story waiting to be told about a community cut off from the modern world … and this isn’t it.”
Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, on the other hand, is it!
I just finished reading it, and it’s a suspenseful narrative about an isolated community of young people who are puzzled by their isolation, by the way their instructors treat them, and by their own developing sexuality. For a long time, I didn’t really understand what was going on, why they were isolated, what exactly made them special. (You may pick it up sooner than I.) But as the truth began to reveal itself, I found myself increasingly troubled and intrigued. The language is so gentle, so quiet, so mellow, and the events seem like simple everyday interaction. Yet, you just can’t shake that sense that there is a big monster in the closet that no one is talking about. Soon, it will rear its ugly head.
The greatness of Ishiguro’s work here is that he never indulges in cheap sci-fi sensationalism. He grounds his story in everyday human behavior. That’s what makes the horror of the premise hit home. This could happen in our world. And things like it already do happen. We need this story. Now.
If Danny Boyle makes a film out of it, and he says he’s going to … I hope he shows the same restraint Ishiguro does. This could be our first sci-fi/poetry film since, what, Tarkovsky’s Solaris? 2001: A Space Odyssey?
Ishiguro, who wrote The Remains of the Day, is a master of portraying repression, the way that manners mask emotion, and the longings that we bury until they manifest themselves in frightening ways. Never Let Me Go is, in one sense, a slow moving story of manners, relationships, and coming of age. But on a deeper level, it’s a science fiction/horror story/mystery par excellence, reminding us of such provocative films as Gattaca and even Blade Runner, asking what will happen when humankind’s desire to play God goes too far. In these days of hot debates over science and ethics, we need stories like this one.