Customer Review

123 of 181 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and unconvincing sci fi novel, July 20, 2005
This review is from: Never Let Me Go (Hardcover)
(Spoilers below; please do not continue if you do not wish to read them.)

Kazuo Ishiguro is clearly a master writer, but he has chosen a subject here that is way, way out of his expertise. Although beautifully written, the basic story behind "Never Let me Go" is dull, and goes over a sci fi subject (cloning) that was done to death 40 years ago. Yes, even the idea of adult clones going willingly to their death for the benefit of mankind.

Presumably Mr. Ishiguro was inspired by the cloning of Dolly the sheep to try his hand at something like this. It's notable that when Americans attack this sort of subject, you get a result like the current movie, "The Island", which focuses less on introspection than on the rebellion of the clones. It says a lot about the difference in national character! LOL! Plus I see many commenters here are the most disturbed at the passivity of the characters.

I certainly see that as a flaw in the structure of the novel (what would prevent any of the clones from simply walking away from Hailsham or the Cottages? After all, they don't look any different than an ordinary person), however I think there are much more serious flaws in the construct.

The ideal age for a "clone" to donate organs would be late teens, not their 30s. That's when all your internal organs are at their healthiest, and you have reached adult proportions. That wouldn't leave time for "carers" to develop. And what's with the concept of "carers"? They aren't even properly trained as nurses or even orderlies. Transplant/donor patients require skilled nursing, not "pals".

Then there is the problem of the idea that the clones donate approximately 4 times (if they survive) and then "complete" (die). What the heck are they donating to accomplish this? You can live with only one kidney, and you can survive with a partial liver...or lose your pancreas, and survive on insulin. But you certainly can't survive without a heart or lungs, which are among the most desirable transplant organs. Maintaining a donor clone on dialysis (assuming both his kidneys were transplanted) would render him too weak to donate any of his other organs. From a strictly medical point of view, it would make more sense to kill the clones and harvest ALL the desirable organs, rather than taking one at a time and risking the clone dying from one of those procedures. Or is the idea that the clone is donating only to the individual he was cloned FROM, as that individual has various organs fail? That doesn't make sense either -- nobodies organs fail exactly in a certain order.

Furthermore, the implication is that harvesting cloned organs will cure cancer. I am hard pressed to think of a cancer that could be cured by transplantation -- it would certainly be rare. The problem with cancer is that it spreads all throughout the body, and transplanting organ after organ would be useless.

This is just a few of the examples of why this is a patently stupid idea for a novel. I don't think Mr. Ishiguro has read much genuine sci fi that explores these ideas, or he'd understand how out of date and out of his depth he really is here. As far as the story exploring the way people passively accept their fate, no matter what it is, without fighting back -- well, if he's revealing an inside look at British culture, that's the scariest part of all.
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Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 42 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 15, 2008 8:57:56 AM PDT
It simply boggles my mind how profoundly this writer failed to understand this novel.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 21, 2008 9:49:41 AM PDT
How did the reviewer fail to understand the novel? Please clarify.

Posted on Mar 17, 2009 7:59:02 AM PDT
Wow... You completely spoiled the plot for me before i had a chance to stop reading. You are a horrible reviewer. I just don't know what to say...

Posted on Apr 2, 2009 2:00:57 PM PDT
N. Rodriguez says:
I think you misunderstood the novel. The author did not explicitly write about the questions you pose. However, the answers can be found by understanding what the author is subtly conveying.

You mention that the ideal age for a "clone" to donate would be their late teens and not their 30's. Have you considered that "possibles" (the original person) do not accept an organ until their own fails? It states in the novel that each "clone" is copied from an individual and this is the individual they donate to. No mention is made of the ages of the "possibles" when a clone is created. So it is likely that if the "possible" is an adult when the clone is created, they would most likely start needing organs when they were in their 50's and 60's. This would coincide with the donors being over 25.

As for the carers, my understanding is that a carer is someone to help with the emotional/psychological well being of the patients. People are healthier when they are mentally sound. Having a donor go into a major depression would endanger the chances of future donations. The donors do have nurses and doctors. Carers are there to be an additional support system.

Not all clones donate 4 times. In fact, it does not seem to be the norm. Mention is made of donors who died after their first donation. This would make sense if a heart or set of lungs was needed. The book does not mention which organs (or body parts) are donated. It could be the kidney, eyes, skin, liver, a limb, bone marrow, etc. Different donors donate at different times and for different reasons.

Perhaps the cancer was referring to a blood cancer - a type which can be cured by a transplant of bone marrow.

This book if first and foremost a book about the human condition. How the characters handled life, how they accepted their fates, how society view them, etc.

Posted on Sep 24, 2009 5:16:32 PM PDT
N/A says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Nov 26, 2009 2:59:34 PM PST
jomojomo says:
The spoliler problem is not the reviewer's, its Amazons. They have no policy nor any mechanism regrading spoilers in reviews, and they shoule. So blame Amazon.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2009 5:55:01 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 27, 2009 5:57:45 AM PST
You have some good points, but people (even children) may need organs at ANY age, not just their 50s and 60s. And if you KNEW you might need organs in your later years (because you had a hereditary condition or something), then you'd know exactly what age to start "breeding" a clone donor so he/she would be the optimal age (late teens) when you were likely to require transplants.

If I missed a particular point the author was going for -- beyond "how awful to clone humans and harvest their organs", then nobody responding here has bothered to fill me in on what that is.

EVERY BOOK EVER WRITTEN is in some way about the human condition, N. Rodriguez. A book either speaks to a reader, or it fails to reach them; this is just my honest evaluation -- no more, no less. If you liked the book, fine.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2009 5:56:13 AM PST
I'm sorry, but as someone else states below, Amazon does not restrict spoilers. If you don't want to know anything about a novel before reading it, DO NOT READ REVIEWS.

Posted on Mar 19, 2010 10:35:16 PM PDT
R. Shogren says:
You mention that "the idea of adult clones going willingly to their death for the benefit of mankind" has been done to death 40 years ago. Do you have any specific examples of this? Any books from the early 60s that address this issue?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2010 1:18:37 PM PDT
I believe if you read closely I say that CLONING as a subject was being discussed in stories and films 40 years ago, and EVEN the idea of clones being willing subjects. I wrote this a while ago, and don't remember all the stories that came to mind, but this basic subject was dealt with in the original Star Trek series and there is an older sci fi film (maybe 70s era) called The Clonus Horror with nearly the same plot. There is obviously the more recent film called The Island as well.

As for subjects eager to be consumed or devoured, I believe the "Schmoo's" in the old Lil Abner strip were doing this back in the 50s or even 40s.

There are undoubtedly more I can't identify by exact name or author, but the general idea of organ harvesting and clones struck me as very, very familiar; I'm not a sci fi expert -- just a casual fan -- and this is just a review, not an academic paper.
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