Having recently seen the film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never let me go, I’ve been reflecting on what happens when established writers create a work of science fiction for the first time. Never let me go represents a biological dystopia where clones are created to be used as organ banks for their ‘originals’.
Never let me go deals with a similar topic to The island but it is very different, not least in the way the clones never rebel against their circumstances. It questions whether they have souls – in essence whether they are truly human. They seem to be missing a crucial human element – the will to survive. In other biological distopias, like Code 46 and Gattaca, individual will is seen to be the determining characteristic of humanity.
Ishiguro’s story is comparable to two other works by established novelists – The body by Hanif Kureishi and The possibility of an island by Michel Houllebecq – which are also biological distopias that deal with the topic of the uniqueness of the individual.
In The body, an aging man has his consciousness transplanted into the body of a young attractive man. For a while he enjoys the possibilities open to him, but eventually he feels alienated from society as he realises that his lifetime of knowledge and experience is not appreciated by anyone around him.
In The possibility of an island, we witness the end of humanity, the transition to post-humanity, and the perpetual recreation of cloned post-human beings who cumulatively extend the conscious existence of a single biological entity. The joy of life has been genetically removed from these soulless creatures.
Should it ever be realised, I hope that Ridley Scott’s rumoured adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s Brave new world is a worthy addition to this genre. I’d like to see a film adaptation of The body too.