SciFi v. LiFi

I hate the term “SciFi.” At least in the book world, it seems to carry this derogatory connotation that the work probably is not worth reading because it borders on pulp at best. Yet even when certain works are essentially science fiction, if the pundits consider it “LiFi” or literary fiction, it is accorded deference and honor. An excellent case in point is Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

This is a book about clones. Clones who are created and raised for the sole purpose of being “donors.” Clones who give “donations” until they are “completed,” i.e. dead. Clones who, if they are not in the donation cycle, are “carers” for those who are. Make no mistake; this is a work of science fiction. Unfortunately, it is not a very well crafted one. And it is one often told in an annoying fashion: as the narrator relates various parts of the story, she decides we need more backstory and, while telling that backstory, decides we need more backstory on the backstory. While we inevitably wind our way back to the starting point, this tool is more distracting that innovative.

Yet evidently because Ishiguro won the Booker Prize for The Remains of the Day, this book has received generally favorable reviews. Maybe my tastes aren’t sufficiently fine-tuned or I am too dense to appreciate “literature.” Yet it seems to me that bad science fiction is still bad science fiction even if the literary world’s powers that be tell us it is “literature.”


Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century.

JG Ballard, “Fictions of Every Kind”, Books and Bookmen

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1 comment to SciFi v. LiFi

  • Nerval from Portugal

    You’re right about the backstories. I found them increasingly annoying. Still, dull as they are, they’re excellent characterization for Kathy. Who is dull and writes like a dull nurse of some sort. Still, in the end, I liked the book very much. Its bleakness moved me.