Genetics and Evolution

 email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
A Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Mind So RareA Natural History of RapeAcquiring GenomesAdapting MindsAgeing, Health and CareAlas, Poor DarwinAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAncient Bodies, Modern LivesAnimal ArchitectsAping MankindAre We Hardwired?Bang!BehavingBeyond EvolutionBeyond GeneticsBlood MattersBody BazaarBoneBrain Evolution and CognitionBrain StormBrave New BrainBrave New WorldsChoosing ChildrenCloneCloningConceptual Issues in Evolutionary BiologyConsciousness EvolvingContemporary Debates in Philosophy of BiologyControlling Our DestiniesCooperation and Its EvolutionCreatures of AccidentDarwin Loves YouDarwin's Brave New WorldDarwin's Gift to Science and ReligionDarwin's UniverseDarwin's WormsDarwinian ConservatismDarwinian PsychiatryDarwinism and its DiscontentsDarwinism as ReligionDebating DesignDecoding DarknessDefenders of the TruthDo We Still Need Doctors?Doubting Darwin?Early WarningEngineering the Human GermlineEnhancing EvolutionEnoughEntwined LivesEthical Issues in Human CloningEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEvil GenesEvolutionEvolutionEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorEvolution and LearningEvolution and ReligionEvolution and the Human MindEvolution in MindEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolution: The Modern SynthesisEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Origins of MoralityEvolutionary PsychiatryEvolutionary PsychologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolutionary Psychology as Maladapted PsychologyExploding the Gene MythFaces of Huntington'sFlesh of My FleshFrom Chance to ChoiceFrom Darwin to HitlerGenesGenes in ConflictGenes on the CouchGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Women, EqualityGenetic Nature/CultureGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetic SecretsGenetics in the MadhouseGenetics of Criminal and Antisocial BehaviourGenetics of Mental DisordersGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenomeGenomeGenome: Updated EditionGenomes and What to Make of ThemGlowing GenesHow Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So StoriesHuman CloningHuman Evolution, Reproduction, and MoralityImproving Nature?In Our Own ImageIn Pursuit of the GeneIn the Name of GodIngenious GenesInheritanceInside the Human GenomeInside the O'BriensIntegrating Evolution and DevelopmentIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIs Human Nature Obsolete?Language OriginsLess Than HumanLiberal EugenicsLiving with Our GenesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of EvolutionMan As The PrayerMean GenesMenMood GenesMoral OriginsMothers and OthersNature Via NurtureNever Let Me GoNot By Genes AloneOf Flies, Mice, and MenOn the Origin of StoriesOrigin of MindOrigins of Human NatureOrigins of PsychopathologyOur Posthuman FuturePhilosophy of BiologyPlaying God?Playing God?Portraits of Huntington'sPrimates and PhilosophersPromiscuityPsychiatric Genetics and GenomicsPsychologyQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRe-creating MedicineRedesigning HumansResearch Advances in Genetics and GenomicsResponsible GeneticsResponsible GeneticsScience, Seeds and CyborgsSex and WarSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsStrange BedfellowsStrange BehaviorSubjects of the WorldSubordination and DefeatThe Age of EmpathyThe Agile GeneThe Ape and the Sushi MasterThe Biotech CenturyThe Blank SlateThe Book of LifeThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Bridge to HumanityThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Century of the GeneThe Common ThreadThe Concept of the Gene in Development and EvolutionThe Debated MindThe Double-Edged HelixThe Epidemiology of SchizophreniaThe Ethics of Choosing ChildrenThe Ethics of Human CloningThe Evolution of CooperationThe Evolution of MindThe Evolution of MindThe Evolved ApprenticeThe Evolving WorldThe Extended Selfish GeneThe Fact of EvolutionThe Folly of FoolsThe Future of Human NatureThe God GeneThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Impact of the GeneThe Innate MindThe Innate MindThe Innate Mind: Volume 3The Limits and Lies of Human Genetic ResearchThe Lives of the BrainThe Maladapted MindThe Meme MachineThe Misunderstood GeneThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Dangerous AnimalThe New Genetic MedicineThe Nurture AssumptionThe Origin and Evolution of CulturesThe Origins of FairnessThe Paradoxical PrimateThe Perfect BabyThe Robot's RebellionThe Selfish GeneThe Shape of ThoughtThe Shattered SelfThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story WithinThe Stuff of LifeThe Talking ApeThe Temperamental ThreadThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Top 10 Myths About EvolutionThe Triple HelixThe Triumph of SociobiologyThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaTwinsUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding the GenomeUnnatural SelectionUnto OthersUp From DragonsVoracious Science and Vulnerable AnimalsWar Against the WeakWhat Genes Can't DoWhat It Means to Be 98 Percent ChimpanzeeWho Owns YouWhose View of Life?Why Evolution Is TrueWhy Think? WondergenesWrestling with Behavioral GeneticsYour Genetic Destiny

Related Topics
Never Let Me GoReview - Never Let Me Go
A Novel
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Vintage, 2005
Review by Tony O'Brien
Aug 16th 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 33)

Never Let Me Go is a bleak novel that offers little respite from its dystopian vision of a society that tolerates not just cloning of humans, but the cloning of humans for no other purpose than to harvest their organs. Much of the moral point of the novel is left unstated, although towards the end there is a final confrontation that allows the key characters to nail their colors to the mast. The colors are pallid. The characters who question the ethics of the cloning program seek only to salve their consciences by carrying out their grotesque task in a more humane way. Their abhorrence of the 'Morningdale scandal' is merely ironic. Even the characters who are subject to this hideous regime are unable to fully understand its moral dimensions. It is hard to imagine a more cold and clinical world.

Never Let Me Go revolves around three central characters, Ruth, Tommy, and the narrator, Kathy. The story begins with Kathy, in her early thirties, reflecting on her life at Hailsham, and her work as a 'carer'. Through a series of key incidents we are introduced to a range of characters, all of whom are seen entirely through their life at Hailsham, a model institution that sounds at first like a boarding school. However this is no ordinary boarding school. By the time you realize that there has been no mention of parents, brothers or sisters or any sense of belonging outside of Hailsham, you have begun, like the children, to accept the normality of their cloistered life. Before long you will be asked, like the children, to accept a lot more. Kathy introduces a range of terms, such as 'completion', 'deferral' and 'possible' the meaning of which mark the children as special, and not destined to take a place in the outside world.†

Besides the children only one other group figures in this novel. They are the guardians, the adults who act as custodians, who provide classes, and who prepare the children for their future lives. There is little direct explanation of what lies before them, and readers must develop their understanding from Kathy's sporadic recollections of the guardians' a piecemeal lectures and indirect hints. The guardians are, in the main, austere and unapproachable, although there are moments in which even the most severe are seen as human and vulnerable. Miss Emily discovers Kathy singing the novel's theme song as she listens to the only cassette tape she owns. Miss Emily's reaction is one of distress, something that the narrator only fully understands late in the story. Miss Lucy seems the most approachable of what is a pretty grim bunch, but in the total institution that is Hailsham she is only able to hint at a wider understanding of the children's situation.

†Kathy is both naÔve and perceptive. As a narrator she has recourse to a limited worldview, and her language is that of a cosseted teenager for whom the world is filtered through more knowing adults whose word she accepts implicitly. Through her relationships with Tommy and Ruth, Kathy is able to comment on friendship, loyalty and love. The emotional climax of the story is as poignant as that of any novel; and the pain and disappointments are equally moving. †††

In the course of her recollections Kathy constantly refers to incidents that we have not yet heard of, and which she proceeds to explain. This technique drives the narrative forward, but it becomes a bit wearying, as if Ishiguro doesn't trust his readers to stay engaged. And there are plenty of reasons why you might want to put this book down. You feel afraid for Kathy, you don't want to believe that this sort of eugenics program could occur, you want to stop the deception and exploitation. But in the way horror stories are compelling even at their most bloodthirsty, Never Let Me Go grips you with morbid fascination and moral outrage.

† Ishiguro's writing is deceptively simple, something which fits the point of view of the narrator, and creates a discomforting sense or ordinariness about what is a bizarre and grotesque world. The naÔve point of view is touching; there are many instances of a childlike view of the world which are both funny and sad. There is a belief, never fully dispelled, that all the lost objects in the world end up in Norfolk, another that the mysterious Madame, a woman who occasionally visits Hailsham to collect works of art produced by the children, is keeping a gallery of this work. The latter belief turns out to be not far from the truth, but for very different reasons than those imagined by the children.

As a work of fiction Never Let Me Go only partly succeeds. As a story about hope and despair it fully captures those emotions, but Ishiguro seems to want more from his science fiction like plot.† While Never Let Me Go provides a compelling narrative, a layered plot driven by love and shifting loyalties, and some convincing atmospheres, the overall effect is of incredulity. Perhaps such a regime is at least imaginable. But Never Let Me Go leaves some critical questions unexplained. People seem just too naÔve, and there is a curious absence of a world outside that inhabited by the main characters of this novel.†††

Ishiguro sets up a story that requires resolution both emotionally and dramatically. A lot hinges on the revelatory second last chapter, and the conclusion in the end seems rushed. You finish the book wondering if the theme of lost childhood needs such a portentous structure. Never Let Me Go is both disturbing and intriguing. It's not a light read, or even an enjoyable one. But for some reason I read it twice. That's probably a recommendation.


© 2005 Tony O'Brien


Tony O'Brien is a short story writer and lecturer in mental health nursing at the University of Auckland, New Zealand:

Editor's note: The unabridged audiobook is read by Rosalyn Landor, who does a fine job in her reading, at keeping a balance between the self-knowledge and motivated self-deception of the narrator.


Welcome to Metapsychology. We feature over 8200 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!

Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716