I had to double-check that Kazuo Ishiguro had not written an android protagonist before. His characters are emotional blanks who favour the clipped diction of police reports in a safer-than-average constabulary. Scores of pages can pass before the reader discerns an inner strain, at which point the uptight prose makes sublime sense as characterisation. No writer achieves more effect while seeming to do so little.

The solar-powered “artificial friend” in his new book is a kind of career culmination, then. Klara and the Sun depicts the bond between the titular servant and a mysteriously ill girl in a near-future US...

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